Beer festivals tend to be quirky things.
I've been to a lot of festivals and seen a lot of stuff, but until earlier this year I've only been on the receiving end of a festival beer pour.
That changed at Sioux City's inaugural Stein & Vines festival when I asked Teresa Albert, co-owner of Millstream Brewing in Amana, if she would like some festival assistance from my wife and I.
I don't know if it was the prospect of a weekend working solo at three consecutive beer festivals in three not-so-close-together cities, or if it was simply the Monster energy drink wearing off, but she said yes.
I was expecting to get a lot of insider intel on the secret word of the beer festival.
What I did learn was that working on the giving side of the beer booth was almost as much fun as being on the beer receiving side AND without that post-fest hangover.
And with that, here are a some thoughts for those attending this weekend's Iowa Craft Brew Festival - offered from having been on both sides of the sampling table.
* Talking with your new-found festival friends while waiting in line for a pour is a wonderful thing. So is chatting up the brewers responsible for that liquid gold. However, please respect the thirsty folks behind you and take your conversation out of the way of those still waiting for their pour.
* Limited, special releases are just that. Sorry, the keg/last bottle/growler just kicked. Likewise, I'm sorry we don't have any Iowa Pale Ale because I managed to freeze up the cold plate. (But that won't happen at Saturday's festival, because I'm not "helping".)
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* Blessed are the booth workers who rinse your tasting glass for you. It's the proper thing to do, but it's a pain when the line is 15 people deep. Hold those workers who rinse your glass in high regard. Likewise, forgive those who don't. Better yet, rinse you own from the strategically placed water coolers.
* That rinse water? Drink it. Think of it as oh-so-easy hydration. Or, as a really sessionable IPA.
* It's a festival to celebrate and enjoy the diversity of beers brewed in Iowa. It's not a contest. Don't be the guy busted on camera leaning over the bridge railing chumming the carp.
* Do not complain about the size of your sample. It's regulated by Iowa code. And, I bet you didn't know that you're only supposed to get one sample per beer. Pro tip: Sample size tends to get slightly larger as closing time nears; it's easier to pack up empty kegs than full ones.
* Have sticky fingers. It's beer fest tradition for the surrounding crowd to let out with a loud "Awwwww!" whenever the sound of broken glass is heard. It means someone dropped a tasting glass and will be finishing the day drinking out of a plastic cup. Bummer. Since the festival is held on a city street, on this you can bet: Fumblefingers = "Awwwww!"
* Try something new! That's kind of why the festival exists. If you don't like sours or lagers or wheats, this is the time to try them. Your only commitment is the time spent in line. Brewers are there to try to make you a convert to a beer of theirs you didn't know you liked.
* Eat food. Get some grub in your gut before entering the festival and support the festival's food vendors as the afternoon progresses. A sweaty pretzel necklace does not count as food.
* I had a blast as a guest pourer, but it was work. Festival set up took two hours and tear down lasted an hour. And that was just time spent setting up and troubleshooting the jockey box and decorating the booth. Make an orderly exit when the festival is over. And, if you take a look over your shoulder while leaving you may catch the start of a post-fest ice cube fight between the brewers. Just sayin'.