Craft beer festivals: love them or hate them, these sudsy money-makers have been not-so-quietly taking over the beer industry's eventscape at a mind-boggling pace. In 2015 alone, Beer Festival Calendar publisher Paul Ruschmann documented a record 1,478 different festivals worldwide, more than five times the number of events featured in the site's very first round-up back in 2001.
To him, this explosive gain makes total sense. "The proliferation of festivals goes hand in hand with the craft beer industry's growth," explains the accomplished beer writer. "The number of American breweries has doubled in just the past five years -- there are now well over 4,000 -- and with so many beers on the market, a festival is an inexpensive, low-risk way to try out new ones."
As a professional beer aficionado (aka massive nerd), I've seen my fair share of beer festivals. I've reported on them, judged them, volunteered for them, and Lord knows I've drank at them. Some are downright amazing -- where newbies rub elbows with industry legends and the next breakout brew is just a sample away -- but the ones that miss the mark, however, can be majorly awful fails. Picture hordes of pretzel necklace-clad mouth breathers and tank-topped spring breakers pounding corner store-quality imperial IPAs like vodka shots. These guys are all about drinking hard and fast -- which is fine, of course, but probably not worth that triple-digit ticket price. So how do you tell a legit fest from a bullshit one? Keep your eyes peeled for these seven red flags and thank us later.