beer festival

The City Girl Craft Beer Festival Survival Guide

Enjoy craft beer festivals, West Coast City Girl style. Practical tips and tricks for enjoying a day or evening of hoppy libation with fun, grace and gumption.

While summer tends to host the bulk of the adult beverage festivals in BC, they usually happen year-round. Particularly in Vancouver and Victoria. The Brit and I recently attended the immensely popular Great Canadian Beer Festival (GCBF) for the first time, and I think it’s one of my favourite festivals I’ve been to — and the weather was perfect!

beer festival Victoria

Because the blog has become a little more liquid-focused (and I now do the social media for the BC Ale Trail), I attend a lot of craft beer events. Combined with years of sports/concert/corporate event planning, I’ve seen and learned a lot — particularly from people watching. (Which is one of my favourite activities at an event.)

As a blogger, I need to present myself well at events and festivals — especially when I’m doing a takeover or have been gifted a ticket in return for some content. But I still like to have fun. So I’ve put together a little list of practical tips and tricks for enjoying a day or evening of hoppy libation at a craft beer festival with fun, grace and gumption.

*April 2022 update: This was obviously written pre-pandemic, so festivals will have changed a bit. The below principles still apply, but just remember to respect people’s space and be an even more mindful craft beer consumer than you would normally be.

1. Remember to bring the essentials


  • 2 pieces of ID – 1 government issued; 1 other, like a credit card
  • Your tickets – Printed or ready on your phone.
  • Cash – I almost never remember this unless it’s explicitly listed on the event site that they won’t accept debit or credit. (#GetThrifty: Go to your bank ATM before the festival so you don’t get charged the fees of the on-site ATM.)
  • Portable phone charger – Especially if you’re going to be out all day or take a million pictures. (Like me.)
  • Empty water bottle (see #2)

Outdoor event:

  • Small umbrella or really good rain jacket (year-round)
  • SPF (summer)
  • Hat (summer)
  • Empty reusable water bottle (year-round)
  • Backpack or crossbody bag to hold it all.

2. Hydrate

Drink water before, during and after an event. This has been my mantra since I was 19, going to country music bars with my friends. No one wants to be dehydrated.

There’s usually a water station available, or the kind person at your next tasting table will happily pour you some water in your taster glass. (This also pulls triple duty as rinsing the glass and cleansing your palate — if these things concern you.)

3. Don’t go on an empty stomach

bee festival food
The perfect pairing: craft beer and pizza. I couldn’t resist.

Eat before or when you get there. Also my mantra. Food trucks are popular at outdoor festivals, so you won’t be lacking for choice unless you have allergies or other food restrictions. I also really like finding a spot where I can sit and enjoy my taster of that moment paired with whatever tasty goodness I’ve just bought. (FYI: Nothing will be super healthy, so I tend to eat all my greens in a breakfast smoothie that day.)

This, combined with #2, is the key to:

  • Not being sloppy
  • Extending your time at the event with fun and clarity
  • Not feeling like a marching band is playing in your head or like you have cotton in your mouth the next morning.

#GetThrifty: Eat before you get to the festival. Food truck or venue food (if not included with entry) can be pricey.

4. Be hands-free

GCBF Victoria
Photo: Meagan Murtonen

When you arrive at a tasting event, the first thing that happens after the security check is being given a bunch of stuff: tasting glass, drink and food tokens. Sometimes an event brochure that is way too big to put in a pocket — but needed for the layout of the room and to know what’s what for breweries, etc.

I like a cross-body purse or a big tote with a side pocket so I have easy access to my tokens and phone. The rest goes into the main compartment. Less to juggle!

5. Dress appropriately

Check the weather for an outdoor festival — dress appropriately and for your comfort. Really, wear whatever you want, but keep it classy. (You know what I mean.) Some people dress in costumes with a group or have a theme. This isn’t my jam, but gives me great joy to see.

TOp tip: The majority of larger indoor venues will have a coat-check, so you won’t have to worry about carrying your coat around.

beer festival Victoria
A little black, pink and tulle at the 2019 Great Canadian Beer Festival. Have some fun and dress up with friends!

It’s also important to note that people inevitably bump into you at these events. Or you’ll have a clumsy moment because you talk with your hands (like me). So just know there’s the possibility that you might get a bit of liquid on your clothes or shoes.

6. Arrive early to beat the crowds

If I’m going to stand in line, I’d rather it be before the event, and not during. At GCBF, the Saturday queue was around the block. Because I had a media pass, we were able to go in the side entrance; but we still got there early.

The benefit of this is being able to take some good Instagramable photos without many people around, but also, you can hit the drink token lineup while the line is still short. Same goes for hitting up popular breweries.

7. Pre-read/have a strategy

beer festival tasting glass

Unless you’re very into whatever beverage or a blogger with a mission, you might think this is silly, and can ignore this. But if you a) know what brewery/winery/cidery you want to try and b) where they are, this makes life so much easier.

The brochure I mentioned in #4 is simply the paper version of what will usually be available online leading up to the event. This is especially helpful if you can only go for a little bit and have certain things you want to try.

8. Make friends

Because being in line or having to share a table is par for the course, you might as well be friendly with the people around you. Beer festivals, etc are jovial events, and The Brit and I end up having great chats with people. You don’t need to accost someone, but if you’re curious about the beer they currently have in their hand, ask about it. Or offer to take the photo that the selfie won’t be — and they’ll in turn offer to take a photo for you. Bonus!

9. Don’t drive

Seems obvious, but is super important to say anyway. Not only for the obvious reason that you shouldn’t be driving after you drink, but parking is virtually non-existent at festival and event venues. Take the bus. Take a taxi. At GCBF, a bus ticket was included in the price of your ticket, which I think is very responsible of them to have done.

And most importantly, be kind and have fun!

beer festival Victoria
Me and The Brit at GCBF | Photo: Meagan Murtonen

Upcoming events

Maybe I’ll see you there!



Thank you to the Victoria Beer Society for hosting us at the Great Canadian Beer Festival and partnering on this post. As always, opinions are my own.

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