Tip #3: Plan your GABS paddles in advance
Last year was my first trip to Good Beer Week and it would be understating things quite a bit to say I over-organised things. Not only did I map out which Pint of Origin venues I was going to hit on the Saturday, I allocated the amount of time I would spend at each. I even went as far as to book a table at the Royston for lunch, which ended up being an embarrassing thing to do because I was quite literally the only person in the dining room.
So this year I’ve chilled the hell out. No set times, no ‘‘must be there now’’, just taking it easy.
But one organising thing I have done is working out my GABS paddles. At GABS they divide the beers up between all the container bars, so each bar only has, say 20, of the 100-plus beers on offer.
When I heard about that last year I thought it was a sucky idea but, once I got to GABS, I could see how well it worked. They changed it from the old system where people queued up at one end to get into a massive bar with all the beers – which made for very long lines.
Spreading them out over a number of container bars means shorter queues at every single bar. And if you see one bar has a bit of a line-up, well you can just go to a different bar and still get some beers while you wait for the queue to die down.
It does mean you need to pick five beers from each bar to fill up your paddle. Sure, you could pick two from one bar and then queue up at another bar to get the remaining three but that’d be a waste of drinking time.
Likewise, a waste of drinking time would be to wait until you’re at GABS to work out what to drink. Which is why I planned it out in advance. I went through the official GABS guide, selected the five beers I wanted most at each bar and then wrote their numbers down on a piece of paper, in the order I wanted them to appear on the paddle (lightest to darkest obviously).
Then, once I got to GABS, I pulled out the sheet of paper and scrawled the numbers on the paddle with chalk and headed to the bar while (I imagine) others were still figuring out what they wanted to try.
Then I sat down with the GABS guide and re-familiarised myself with each of the beers as I was about to drink them. There were some bars that had more than five beers I wanted to try – and had jotted down their numbers as ‘‘reserves’’. After I had filled up a paddle at each bar (not in one go, I drank a paddle before going for the next) I ducked back to the appropriate bars to pick up those reserves.
It was a very efficient plan, if I do say so myself. It meant I got through 30 beers from the ‘‘five a bar’’ set-up and then an extra paddle’s worth to pick up the reserves. And still had plenty of time to mosey around the craft beer market. All in the space of a single session.