GBBF can be a gruelling event, especially for the uninitiated. So here's a guide based on 15 years experience - a few simple DOs and DON'Ts to maximise your beery enjoyment:
- DO look after your glass. Repeat after Me: "This is my glass. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My glass is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My glass, without me, it's useless. Without my glass, I am useless. My glass and I know that what counts in this festival is not the beards we wear, the noise of our burps, nor the silent-but-deadly farts we make. We know that it is the beers that count. I will keep my glass clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. Before God, I swear this creed."
- Men, DON'T extend this duty of care to holding your pint in one hand while holding your penis in the other, pissing into the urinal. It's not a great look, especially if you drain the dregs of your glass while shaking. Leave your glass with trusted friends, or finish your pint before you go to pee and use the opportunity to rinse your glass when you - here's a hint - WASH YOUR HANDS.
- DO eat before you go. You'll need some stomach lining and you may not want to rely on the food concessions on site. Rumour has it that some of the burgers date back to the first time the festival was held at Olympia in 1992. And who eats olives? No but really though?
- DON'T head straight for Bieres San Frontieres, the 'foreign beer bar'. Yes, we all know it's going to have the most interesting, rarest, most flavoursome brews, but they're all at least 10% ABV and if you start on them your time at the festival will be dramatically curtailed.
- DO be kind to the volunteers. This is their day in the sun - literally. Sometimes, it's the only day they see the sun all year. They aren't used to being around so many people and can startle easily. But they only lash out when frightened - making inappropriate 'jokes' about health and safety regulation infringements is not big or clever and if you do so you deserve all you get. They do a great job and the festival could not run without them. in recent years, they've even acquired admirable social skills.
- DON'T bother trying to make sense of how the beers are organised and laid out. You'll just be wasting valuable drinking time. Instead, treat GBBF as a magical mystery tour. Relax and go with the flow, wandering the bars at random and just trying anything that takes your fancy. There are over 800 beers and ciders and there's bound to be something worth trying whichever bar you find yourself in front of, however random the combination of region, alphabetical order and association with British historical figures might be.
- DO take advantage of the fact that both pint and half pint glasses have a third of a pint marking on them. It is socially acceptable to order small measures and because the volunteers are really touchy about being served short measures in pubs, they pour almost a half when you ask for a third anyway, making it a great value way to drink. If you're still worried, just get a third poured into a pint glass and pretend you're a really fast drinker.
- If you want to take non-beery friends along to show off your beery prowess and introduce them to some great brews, DON'T take them on Hat Day (Thursday). Hat Day is the great Gathering of the Nerds. Hat Day will make your non-beery friends look at you with the same expression they would wear if you had invited them to Torture Garden.
- DO takes advantage of the fact that you're in the same physical space as all your beery acquaintances and PUT THE SMARTPHONE DOWN. You can say the word 'awesome' to each other repeatedly in person instead, which is much nicer.
See you down the foreign beer stand real soon.