Navigating Seattle's Beer Festivals

The greater Seattle area offers several craft beer festivals throughout the year. Featuring dozens of breweries and hundreds of beers, these celebrations - while undeniably delightful - can be downright overwhelming. Where does one even begin? Here's some tried and true brew fest advice from the pros.

Find Your Festival
Many of Washington State's craft beer festivals are put on by the Washington Beer Commission (WBC). Their Washington Brewer's Festival, held annually at Marymoor Park, is a great place to start. Other Seattle-area fests put on by WBC include Belgian Fest at Seattle Center and Everett Craft Beer Festival in downtown Everett.

Beer festivals cost money, for all parties involved. So brew fests depend on unpaid people-power to keep the taps flowing. Volunteer opportunities abound, from set-up and takedown to pouring tasters and selling merch. Most tasks are relatively easy, and shifts rarely exceed a few hours. The perks? Free admission and a chance to meet like-minded individuals. The popularity of volunteer shifts is on a steady increase though, so sign up early.

Establish Base Camp
Once your volunteer shift is over, it's time to establish Base Camp. During summer festivals this could mean a lush, sunny patch of grass near mainstage. The rest of the year, your camp will most likely be a chair-less standup table. Establishing Base Camp is important for several reasons:
  1. You'll always know where to find your stuff and at least one of your buddies.
  2. Tables provide a place to set your food and drink, as well as a hard writing surface if you plan on taking notes. No awkwardly juggling necessary.
  3. Tables and sunny grass patches are often scarce and highly sought-after. Grab a piece of prime real estate early on and you'll be much more likely to make some new friends.
  4. Any solid brew fest will provide an info booklet and map of the grounds. Set aside a few minutes at Base Camp for browsing this handy guide. Mark it up, then get to work.
Try Something New
Breweries often use festivals as tasting grounds for seasonal or limited release beers. This is a great opportunity to try something unique from a brewery you don't visit frequently, or to check out a new offering from an old favorite. A stout brewed with peanut butter? Delicious. An eggnog cream ale? Well, it sure was ... different. Bottom line: you never know until you try.

Line your stomach with something other than beer. This will allow you to taste more beers in the long run without passing out or getting sick from all those 9.5% ABV stouts.

Drink plenty of water. It may be wise to bring your own, as some festivals charge for bottled water (though you can probably get a free one for volunteering).

Sober Up
It goes without saying: don't drive drunk. People-watching at beer festivals is an excellent way to sober up. Many beer fests offer live music or giveaways, so check out the entertainment or call a cab.

Brandon Fralic is a Bellingham-based writer and photographer. With a focus on the outdoors, travel, and craft beer, he has contributed to a handful of publications including Washington Trails and Outdoor Project.‚Äč