Would you love or hate a Blind Beer Festival?


A festival where nobody knows exactly what they’re drinking until the end. Any interest?

I’ve been to a lot of beer festivals over the years and I’ve observed a lot of festivalgoer behavior. For starters, I’ve noticed that a line begets a line and people assume (right or wrong) that the best beer is at the front of the longest line. I’ve also noticed that the fanciest and most festive booths get a  lot of attention and humble, unassuming booths occupied by breweries with unfamiliar names tend to get the least attention, regardless of the quality of the beer.

To a large extent, this is understandable, predictable human behavior. I honestly do not intend for this to be a disparaging commentary about festivalgoers.

So, what if we had a beer blind beer festival? What if the beers you tried at the event came with no preconceived notions about the brewery? You step up to the booth and get a beer described only as “hazy and hoppy” or “dark and rich,” for example. No idea who brewed it. Maybe you don’t even know the exact beer style. No fancy banners, no free stickers, no hula skirts or other costumes, no marketing whatsoever.

Would you appreciate such a beer festival or would it defeat the purpose? Do you go to beer festivals to explore, to learn, and to discover, or do you go to beer festivals to reinforce your existing opinions about what you like? Would it piss you off that you do not know which booth is pouring beer from your favorite brewery, the one you’ve determined to be the best brewery in all the land?

This is not a rhetorical question. I am honestly interested to know how people would feel about a blind beer festival.

Some folks in Boston are about to find out the answer to my questions. In March, Boston Beer Week kicks off with an event dubbed the Blind Beer Fest. The festival-style event will feature over 30 beers from Massachusetts breweries, but nobody will know which breweries brewed which beers, or even which breweries are involved, until the big reveal at the end of the event.

“Let’s remove any preconceived notions about style and branding,” says the event’s Facebook page. “Throughout the event, you won’t know exactly what beer you’re tasting or the brewery it’s from. You’ll have a cheat sheet to take notes as you taste and will then have the opportunity to vote for your favorites in each section — IPAs, dark beers and wild cards.”

“At the end of the event, we’ll reveal all of the beers, breweries, and the fan favorites in each style category.”

Personally, I think this is a great idea. As an occasional beer judge, the blind tasting is something to which I’ve grown accustomed. Yeah, sometimes the big reveal at the end of it all surprises or even disappoints you, but a good beer is a good beer, regardless of preconceived notions. For beer judging, the blind tasting format works and is absolutely necessary. I am just curious if people think it is appropriate or valuable for a beer festival.

Feel free to leave a comment here or head over to Facebook, where I anticipate a lively conversation.



    1. The whole idea behind the festival is to find out what beers you should be spending said money on, not according to marketers, beer ratings apps, or so-called experts on social media but what your own taste buds tell you.

      1. Totally agree, Rob!
        That’s the fun part. What REALLY tastes good vs. Fancy marketing.
        Enjoy the day!!

    2. If you’re at a beer festival, you’ve paid to get in the gate/door. What you sample once inside is already covered. Decide what you like based on what you taste, not on marketing or a brewery’s cult status.

  1. Brilliant idea that avoids the everyone run to the booth of the most exclusive barrel aged stout or barelywine and the keg blows in 15 minutes.

  2. Oh man, wonder if I can convince the wife to take the family to visit her sister, AND convince her sister to babysit the kids for a few hours…

    I’m traveling the weekend before and a couple weeks after so I know there is zero chance to sneak away for the weekend (and honestly, with my travel schedule, no desire to…)

  3. There’s the rare case where I’ll wait in a line for a specific beer or want to try one from a specific brewery based on reputation. However – I really like variety and new things, so I’ll generally hunt for beers based on description.

    So the real question is – when is the Seattle Blind Beer Fest? Or does Portland do it first?

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