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Tim Bissell Tim Bissell
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Three Pint Stance - A brewfest style guide

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Another week, another article about brew festivals. I might not work at a dairy farm, but I sure do know how to milk something, eh?

This week I’d like to talk about one of the most important decisions one must make before heading out to the brewfest. More important than scouting out the festival layout to see where the hype breweries will be. More important than pouring over the beer list to make sure you get a sip of every single raspberry sour at the fest. Even more important than calculating precisely how many pretzels you will need on your pretzel necklace.

I want to talk today about how to best answer the daunting question every single craft beer aficionado/snob/enthusiast/nerd/geek/etc. faces the morning of the big day.

What T-shirt am I going to wear???

There are a few easy answers to this question, and sometimes it can be easier to just toss on whatever brewery t-shirt is at the top of the clean pile the day of the fest. If you want to take that approach, be my guest. However, if you are like me and like to over-analyze the trivial, mundane things in life, keep reading!

Ahead is my compendium of dos, don’ts, observations and musings on beer festival t-shirt choices. Please enjoy.

  •    There has never been a better time for craft beer, and therefore there has never been a better time to buy beer-themed t-shirts. Be aware that you are not the only one looking for clever and funny beer-related t-shirts, and the major clothing retailers have noticed! If you find a cool beer-themes t-shirt at Old Navy, Target, Hot Topic, etc. just be aware that you will probably see seven or eight people wearing that exact same t-shirt at the next brewfest. Everyone has a relative who shops all the time and only knows one thing about you, and that is that you like “those microbeers.” I mean it, everyone has one, and they are probably buying you the Bear crossed with a Deer shirt that says Beer above it right now.
  •    The best place to find brewery t-shirts is at, obviously enough, breweries! Support your local brewer and buy a t-shirt. A lot of them have online stores too! Merchandise sales can be a nice little boost to the bottom line of small-medium sized breweries, so buy direct as often as you can! That in mind, there are some great places online to find brewery/beer t-shirts. Use the Googles and find them yourself!
  •    Feel free to rock the t-shirt of a brewery that is pouring at the festival you will be attending. The general rule of “don’t wear a Rush t-shirt to the Rush concert” doesn’t apply in the beer world.
  •    I always award bonus points for throwback t-shirts at brewfests. Hit the local thrift store, Goodwill, Salvation Army or poke around at area yard sales for t-shirts from breweries that don’t exist anymore, or for older logos that breweries don’t use anymore. My ace in the hole for throwback tees (when I didn't have to wear a Gneiss t-shirt to every festival ever) was my Catamount Brewing t-shirt. Picked it up at a yard sale in VT years ago and it has paid dividends ever since.
  •    I feel as though I must address the “group of people all wearing the same, custom t-shirt made specifically for this festival” phenomenon that you see from time to time. Now, the overwhelming cynical nature of my existence wants to poo-poo this as a lame thing to do for people who have too much time on their hands and have no sense of public shame. As much as I want to take that position, I can’t ignore the observable evidence that everyone I have seen take part in a custom t-shirt group at a brew festival has been having an absolute blast. As a scientist, I just can’t ignore evidence like that, so if you and yours want to have shirts made for the next fest, go nuts!

One last thing: if you are going to wear a shirt that is funny, ironic, clever or unique in any way, please have the personality to match. Nothing saddens me more than when I give a compliment on a t-shirt and am met with a cold, confused look. If you don’t want people to make comments about your t-shirt, just wear something generic and blend in already!


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