Top 10 Spring Beer Festivals 2011
Most of the country is thawing out from an especially brutal winter this year, which means sunnier, longer days and mild temperatures as the early spring weather predicted this year by groundhog prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil become a reality.
Of course, spring also kicks off the beer festival season, when brewers turn from the dark stouts and porters of wintertime and debut maibocks and other spring seasonals. So as the coats go back into the closet, break out the road maps and hit the highway for the Road Trips for Beer Top 10 Spring Beer Festivals.
As always, drink responsibly; know your limits, and when you think you’ll be exceeding those limits, designate a driver, take public transportation or book a hotel room within walking or taxi distance from the festival.
New England Real Ale Exhibition 2011
Wednesday, March 30, to Friday, April 2, 2011, Somerville, Massachusetts.
First, a quick definition for those not familiar with “real ale.” It’s a beer that ferments completely in the vessel from which it is served. It is usually lower in carbonation and alcohol than many U.S. craft beers. (This is where the myth that the British prefer “warm beer” come from. It’s actually served at “cellar temperature,” which is 54-57 degrees Fahrenheit; 12-14 degrees Celsius). Its fans are many, and this festival gives them a chance to sample a wide variety of them. NERAX promises at least 50 British beers and 40 American beers served this way. There will be one session each day of the festival, and the beers will be sold by the pint. www.nerax.org.
Colorado Beer Week
Friday, April 8, to Saturday, April 16, 2011, throughout Colorado.
It’s hard to believe that the state some call “The Napa Valley of Beer” is just now launching its inaugural beer week, but it is. Taking place at breweries, restaurants, bars, hotels and other venues, most events will focus on pairings of food and beer. Tickets are required for the events, but you can purchase a Beer Connoisseur Package for $160 (as of this writing, it’s being offered at 10 percent off, $144) that gives entry to all events except a golf tournament. And the organizers are holding a photo contest with the grand prize of a free Connoisseur’s Package. Deadline for that is March 28. www.cobeerweek.com
Saturday, April 9, 2011, Breckenridge, Colorado.
This Rocky Mountain community, nestled in the shadow of the Continental Divide, promises plenty of pourings from national and local craft breweries (including, of course, Breckenridge Brewery). There will be live local music, beautiful scenery and lots of food available. Make a long weekend out of your road trips and check out some of the Summit County breweries making beer at more than 9,000 feet above sea level with some of the purest snowmelt water in the world. www.resortquestbreckenridge.com
Cajun Café on the Bayou Spring Craft Beer Festival
Saturday, April 16, 2011, Pinellas Park, Florida.
As long as Cajun Café owners Paul and Rebecca Unwin continue to present their beer festivals, they will continue to make our Top 10 lists. British transplant Paul is a big supporter of craft beer, especially Florida’s booming scene. You can expect the unexpected beer at this festival. In many cases, Paul manages to bring in some rare brews for the tasting pleasure of the beer geek crowd, and he constantly adds to the beer list up to the day of the festival. Throw in some authentic Cajun cuisine, a live jazz band and a cozy beer garden atmosphere and you have a beer festival well worth the road trip. www.cajuncafeonthebayou.com.
Friday and Saturday, April 22-23, 2011, Portland, Oregon.
Some of the finest beer in the country will be poured at this festival in the city some call “Beervana.” More than 80 craft beers will be available for sampling, as well as products from regional wineries and artisan distillers, specialty cheeses and handmade chocolate. In addition, the festival will offer a global shopping marketplace, cooking demonstrations and educational seminars on the Chef’s Stage, and live music featuring Northwest bands. Admission is free for the first two hours each day, and $5 after 2 p.m. www.springbeerfest.com
Sasquatch Brew Fest
Saturday, May 7, 2011, Eugene, Oregon.
The Sasquatch Brew Fest is dedicated to the memory of Glen Hay “Sasquatch” Falconer, the popular head brewer at the Wild Duck Brewery in Eugene until his passing in 2002. It’s organized by the nonprofit Northwest Legends Foundation, staffed by friends of Falconer, and is dedicated to showcasing Pacific Northwest craft brewing. In addition, the Cascade Brewers Society will hold a homebrewing contest open to anyone from across the country. Proceeds will help sponsor some brewing scholarships to Chicago’s Siebel Institute, as well as benefit local charities. www.northwestlegendsfoundation.org/sasquatch_brewfest
Friday and Saturday, June 3-4, 2011, Boston, Massachusetts.
Billed as the largest celebration of craft beer on the East Coast, the fourth annual American Craft Beer Festival at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center promises more than 100 American brewers pouring more than 400 beers. The festival is sponsored by Beer Advocate magazine and Harpoon Brewery and is split into three sessions: one on Friday and two on Saturday. Organizers expect an attendance of about 5,000 at each session. Beeradvocate.com/acbf
Philly Beer Week
Friday, June 3, to Sunday, June 12, 2011, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This fourth annual celebration of the Philadelphia craft beer scene begins with the ceremonial tapping of the first keg at Opening Tap and goes on for 10 days, featuring hundreds of festivals, dinners, tours, pub crawls, tastings and meet-the-brewer nights throughout Greater Philadelphia. Philly Beer Week draws thirsty beer fans from throughout the region and beyond, making it one of Philadelphia’s key annual tourism events. www.phillybeerweek.org.
Sunday, June 5, 2011, Asheville, North Carolina.
North Carolina is producing some pretty great beer these days, which probably is why Asheville has been named “Beer City USA” for two years in a row. This second annual festival features nearly 30 breweries, mostly from the Carolinas, pouring samples in the beautiful mountain town just off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. You can expect educational session, games, local food and lots of live music. www.ashevillebrewersalliance.com.
Great Northern Beer Festival
Saturday, June 11, 2011, Eagle River, Wisconsin.
You can park your RV or pitch your tent close to this beer festival, held on the site of the Hi-Pines Campground, and not have to worry about finding a safe way home. And if you’re not camping, designated drivers are admitted free. With a concentration on local craft brewers, this is an excellent chance to taste a wide assortment of beers made in the Upper Midwest, though there will be a few from points further. www.greatnorthernbeerfestival.com