Top 10 Summer Beer Festivals 2011
Summer has arrived with a vengeance across the South this year, but as summer began some Northern states were still digging out from record snowfalls. However, a sure sign of summer is the beer festival, when breweries pour their summer ales and lagers, and shorts and T-shirts become the fashion du jour.
From the lowlands of Florida to the high countries of North Carolina and Colorado and beyond, these Top 10 Summer Beer Festivals offer enough variety and entertainment to make any of them a worthy destination for a Road Trip for Beer.
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.
San Diego International Beer Festival
In just five years, the San Diego International Beer Festival has become one of the largest in the country, with more than 150 breweries and 350 beers from around the world. In 2010, 15 states and 22 countries participated in the festival. Pay extra for the VIP Experience in the Brewer’s Lounge and you’ll get to mingle with the brewers. www.sdfair.com
Atlanta Summer Beer Fest
Saturday, June 25, Atlanta, Georgia.
This outdoor festival in the Masquerade Music Park celebrates brewers from Atlanta and beyond and promises to be even bigger than last year’s. Organizers will have a second stage for music, and food from local vendors will be available for purchase. More than 100 beers will be available for sampling. www.atlantabeerfestivals.com
Ohio Brew Week
Tastings and dinners and beer, oh my! Ohio has a booming craft beer scene, and this will be a great road trip to experience it all. A slew of events are scheduled including golf tournaments, a brewers forum and plenty of craft beer and food pairing meals. There will even be a Karaoke Night at The Smiling Skull Saloon to show off your singing skills, and if you don’t have any, enjoy many of the concerts scheduled at various venues in the Ohio city. www.ohiobrewweek.com
Empire Beer Festival
A little publication called USA Today named this one of its Top 10 Beer Festivals in the United States, but that didn’t influence our decision at all. There will be nearly 50 of the world’s top breweries pouring samples here, along with live music, separate tents featuring the beers of Germany and Belgium and plenty of American craft brews. www.empirebrewfest.com
Michigan Summer Beer Festival
Michigan loves its beer, and this festival showcases it. It will take place outside in a lovely riverside setting and will feature more than 300 different beers from more than 50 different Michigan breweries. A variety of tasty food items will be available for purchase from independent food vendors inside the festival, and there will be a diverse selection of live music by local bands. Michigan Brewers Guild.
Saturday, August 6, Tampa, Florida
Beer festivals have become a popular fundraiser for zoos across the country, but even not taking into account the animals, WaZoo has evolved into one of the premier beer tasting events in the country. Attendees can sample from hundreds of brews from Florida and around the world as they experience close encounters with some of the animals and listen to live music on a balmy summer evening. All proceeds benefit the Lowry Park Zoo, one of the country’s finest. www.lowryparkzoo.com
15th annual Bluegrass and Beer Festival
Friday, August 6, and Saturday August 7, Keystone, Colorado.
Enjoy the sound of Appalachian bluegrass while surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Plenty of brewers from Colorado and elsewhere will pour samples of their beers. The bands will play on three stages during the two days of the festival amidst the breathtaking scenery. And you won’t have to leave the youngsters at home: The free family Kidzone will offer inflatables, kids crafts and kids entertainment. www.keystonefestivals.com
Great Taste of the Midwest
Second Saturday in August (August 13, 2011), Madison, Wisconsin.
More than 100 brewpubs and craft breweries from the Midwest gather each year during this festival at Olin-Turville Park overlooking Lake Monona to share beer and good times with 6,000 or so patrons. Organizers expect more than 500 different beers to be poured at what they say is the second-longest running craft beer festival in the United States. Expect wandering minstrels to provide the background music. www.mhtg.org
High Country Beer Fest
Saturday, September 3, Boone, North Carolina.
Some of the best beer in the nation is being brewed in North Carolina, and this Labor Day Weekend beer festival offers a great opportunity to try some. The picturesque college town, home to Appalachian State University, is tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains at an elevation of more than 3,300 feet, so the weather should be great. Fifty-seven craft breweries represented last year, and organizers expect even more this year. There also will be live music and educational seminars. www.hcbeerfest.com
You might find it odd that Oktoberfest is included in a list of summer festivals, but since it starts before the Fall Solstice, well, here it is. Everybody has some idea of what goes on here, except for recent arrivals from other planets: beer, drindls, beer, lederhosen, beer, polka music, and beer. The yearly celebration has an information-filled website that should answer most questions about the 178th Munich, Oktoberfest. Prost! www.oktoberfest.de