Top 10 summer beer festivals
For many people, summer time is road trip time. And if you are in pursuit of the next great beer, you can’t go wrong planning a vacation around any of these beer festivals. Some you can drive to in the United States – or in one case, ride a train; for others you’ll need a plane ticket and your passport. Regardless, there’s nothing tastier than a cold beer once you arrive at your destination, wherever it may be, not to mention the thrill of discovering a new favorite brew.
It wasn’t easy to narrow this list down to only 10. Many great festivals were left out. If you wish to bring attention to any of those, please feel free to do so in the comments section.
As always, drink responsibly.
American Craft Beer Fest, June 18-19 in Boston: The largest U.S. craft beer festival on the East Coast will be at the Seaport World Trade Center, Boston. More than 80 brewers will be pouring upwards of 325 different craft beers. Sponsored by Beer Advocate magazine, the event is split into three sessions: Friday from 6 to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. and from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 plus service fee per session. The Seaport Hotel, across the street from the venue, offers discounted room rates for festival-goers. Information on other area hotels can be found here. And of course, Boston offers many other attractions for the road tripper.
The 23rd annual Oregon Brewers Festival, the last full weekend in July (July 22-25, 2010) in Portland, Oregon: The biggest city in the state that some call “Beervana” hosts this beer-lovers extravaganza over four days on the banks of the Williamette River, with Mount Hood towering in the background. Besides the beer being poured by more than 80 craft breweries, there will be live music, beer-related vendors, beer memorabilia displays, beer writers and publishers, hop growers, homebrewing demonstrations, and an assortment of foods. Thursday through Saturday, taps will be open from noon to 9 p.m.; on Sunday, beer will flow from noon to 7 p.m. Admission is free, but those wishing to sample the fermented wares must purchase a “taster package,” which includes a mug, a program and tasting tokens. Package prices range from $10 to $50. The Hotel Monaco Portland is the official host hotel, but other nearby lodging will offer discount rates for those attending the festival. To learn about other things to do in Portland, check out the Travel Portland website.
Great American Beer Festival, Sept. 16-18 in Denver, Colorado. If Oregon is Beervana, then this annual festival in Colorado is Mecca for beer road trippers. Spread over three days at the Colorado Convention Center, the GABF will feature more than 400 breweries pouring more than 1,800 different beers for 46,000-plus attendees. There will be three evening sessions from 5:30 to 10 p.m. each night, as well as a separate “members-only” session on Saturday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Ticket prices for evening sessions are $55 and include a festival program, a tasting cup and unlimited one-ounce beer samples. Group rates and four-packs are available. Other events include competitions – a GABF gold medal is the most sought after for bragging rights – beer schools and presentations. Several downtown Denver hotels are offering special rates for festival attendees.
Munich Oktoberfest, late September to early October (Sept. 18- Oct. 4, 2010) in Munich, Germany. It seems like every big city and backwater burg advertises its version of Oktoberfest every year, but there’s only one original. The granddaddy of all beer festivals takes place this year for the 176th time. More than 6 million liters of “liquid gold” are expected to be quaffed this year by millions of natives and tourists alike in the massive “tents,” which more closely resemble giant beer pubs or small castles. This year marks the festival’s 200th anniversary: Oktoberfest started in 1810 to commemorate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. In addition to the beer, there will be rides and amusements, and horse races (the original culminated in a horse race). If you plan on attending this year’s Oktoberfest, you can find information on Munich lodgings here. For more information on traveling to and in Munich, go here.
WELL WORTH THE TRIP
NY Brewfest, June 19 in New York City. When it comes to location, it’s hard to beat the urban background of this fourth annual festival. It will take place on the green space of Governors Island, just 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, and the only way to reach it is by boat. Luckily, event organizers have partnered with New York Water Taxi to shuttle festival-goers to the historic island. More than 100 breweries will offer unlimited four-ounce samples of at least 300 different beers. Live music, food and seminars led by New York State master brewers. Tickets are $55 and include water taxi transport. The Best Western Seaport Inn is the festival’s host hotel, but of course New York City offers accommodations for nearly all budgets, and public transportation should be no problem. For more information on the city, visit nycgo.com.
Great European Beerfest 2010, June 26-27 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Just because you can’t afford a trip to the Munich Oktoberfest this year doesn’t mean you have to miss out on tasting some great European beer this summer. Last year, this festival in the parking lot of the Sharp Edge Beer Emporium featured 135 beers, of which 40 were Belgian. There will be three tasting sessions over the weekend: Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $55 in advance and $60 at the door. A separate Ultimate Bier Dinner will be Friday night; tickets for that are $75 each. For more information on hotels and other things to do in Pittsburgh, check out the Visit Pittsburgh website.
North American Organic Brewers Festival, last weekend in June (June 25-27, 2010) in Portland, Oregon. This sixth annual ode to sustainability and brew crafted from organic ingredients stretches over three days in Portland’s Overlook Park. Not all the beers are 100 percent “certified organic,” but all use at least some organic ingredients in their recipes. Organizers strive to encompass earthy-friendly practices in all aspects of the festival. Reusable tasting “glasses” are made from compostable cornstarch. Festival waste goes into onsite composting and recycling stations. Vendors must use compostable plates and cutlery. Biodiesel and solar generators provide electricity. The list goes on. Admission is free, but tasting cups are $6 each and tasting tokens must be purchased to sample the beer. For more information on lodging and things to do in the Portland area, go here.
Rails & Ales Brewfest, June 26 in Alamosa, Colorado. Ride the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad to a pristine Rocky Mountain meadow at 9,700 feet to enjoy samples of 80 different beers from microbrewing hotspot Colorado. Also, bands and barbecue. Really, need we say more? Just one thing: Tickets are $58 to $68 and include the round-trip train ride, a tasting glass and access to the beer festival.
BEYOND THE BORDERS
Toronto’s Festival of Beer, Aug. 5-8 in Toronto, Canada: The largest celebration of beer north of the United States will feature more than 120 brew brands during the four days of festivities. The beer will flow at Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place, which will be easily accessible by public transportation. One of the more unusual aspects of this festival is its “Brand Experience Areas,” described as “an opportunity to fully experience a brand, or brands of beer, in an environment that reflects the lifestyle that the brand or brewery defines itself with.” Tickets are priced from $40 to $50 and are available here. For more information on Toronto-area hotels and activities, check out the Tourism Toronto website.
Belgian Beer Weekend, Sept. 3-5 in Brussels, Belgium: When a beer festival features an “enthronement” ceremony, you know it means business. The Belgian Beer Weekend, “organised by the Belgian Brewers and the Knighthood of the Brewers’ Mashstaff in collaboration with the City of Brussels,” will indeed feature plenty of pomp and circumstance in addition to a wide sampling of great Belgian ales from at least 50 breweries during its three days. Since Belgians have brewed beer since the Middle Ages, expect a lot of history to be served up with your ales. For more information on visiting Brussels, go here.