Water as contraband at beer festivals

It is unethical for a beer festival to treat water as contraband.  It is a severe lack of social responsibility to prohibit potable (safe to drink) water.  It is reckless behaviour to encourage the consumption of alcohol whilst simultaneously being negligent about visitors’ health by forbidding drinking water.

There is little doubt that any beer festival organiser would despute the above statements.  It would be remiss of any beer festival organiser to argue against these points without appearing to be foolish and morally wrong.

A beer festival is under no obligation to provide compilatory potable water to its visitors, of course, although many attentive festivals do.  What is most shocking, however, is a beer festival who confiscates or disposes of its visitors’ drinking water.  The writers experienced this a few years ago when an outdoor summer event that promotes itself as a “beer festival” required visitors to empty their sealed and unopened water bottles before entry, and then confiscated the empty plastic bottles.


There is nothing but greed at the heart of this policy, since drinking water was available to purchase inside at over-inflated, exorbitant prices.  And to be clear, it is not just the so-called “beer festivals” who take this approach, since many other popular events feel this an appropriate strategy too.  However, due to the very nature of a beer festival and the obvious health risks of over-indulgence and dehydration, organisers should be asking themselves if forbidding visitors from carrying their own drinking water is decent and proper behaviour.  Beer festival visitors deserve both respect and an unconditional ability to rehydrate.

There is little in the way of argument to support prohibiting water, besides laziness and the aforementioned greed.  The writers have undertaken security at one of the largest beer festivals in the world and consequently understand the reason and need to search bags to identify and check any liquids brought into the event.  Any unopened, sealed water bottles can proceed.  Any open, unsealed water bottles are checked (simple smell test) for the presence of alcohol or other substance that may be a danger or health-risk.  If there is a presence of anything alcoholic or potentially dangerous, then the container is noted, tagged, impounded and returned to the visitors as they leave.  The same approach is taken for fruit-juice, soda, soft-drinks, tea, coffee — anything.  Any bottle or vessel that is perceived to contain a non-alcoholic drink is allowed, and the bottles are certainly not confiscated.  Inside, drinking water is available to any visitor who requests it.

Food is not confiscated, either, since people need to eat occasionally for the same health reasons.  However, this is another story and certainly a more complex issue for beer festival organisers and catering attendees.  Although a zero-tolerance to food without care and consideration can be negligent, too; the aforementioned “beer festival” required all visitors to dispose of any food items into large garbage bins, which was not only an obscene amount of waste, but also inattentive behaviour because some visitors had legitimate dietary needs that were not met inside the event.  Any plea for reconsideration was uncompromisingly ignored.

Most people who drink beer need to drink water for rehydration, too, and those who say they don’t need water should be encouraged to rehydrate anyway.  Unconditionally.  Without placing profit ahead of the health and safety of visitors.

The “beer festival” mentioned above appears to have yielded on the drinking water policy this year, but it was an ill-considered decision to forbid water in the past.  The impact is long-lasting.  Moreover, it will be interesting to ascertain if the people staffing the entry points to the event this year will be meticulous and vigilant in their approach to allowing liquids in event, or whether it is simply easier to wield control and forbid everything as has happened previously.

The list of forbidden articles makes for interesting reading, despite it being extremely generic, open to misinterpretation and subject to the whims and feelings of the particular member of the entry staff. Because it is so subjective, there is much comedic value to be obtained, although it would be trite to even attempt any form of humour.  Let’s hope it doesn’t rain, though.


Soft drugs, hard drugs, food, (alcoholic) drinks, own glassware (plastic) bottles, cans, flags, sticks, umbrellas, canes (excluding medical crutches and devices), (domestic) animals, banners, objects expressing discriminatory and / or provocative text, pointed, blunt, firearms or impact weapons or other objects that could be used in a violent manner, objects that may affect the safety, health or well-being of the other visitors such as weapons, aerosols, sprays, fireworks, flares and any means of transportation.