Nowhere in America is a cold beer more welcome as a tonic for the oppressive summer heat than in the South. Below are our top picks for beating the heat south of the Mason-Dixon this summer.
Burning Can started out as Oskar Blues’ celebration of canned craft beer, and it still celebrates the beauty of aluminum. But the festival has become so much more in recent years. You still get more than 50 breweries showing off their cans, but you also get a legit music festival and a beer/trail run. This could be the coolest race ever—you and your teammates run a 5K trail loop, and before each lap, you have the option to drink a 12-ounce Oskar Blues beer which will lake two minutes off your lap. That’s our sort of race.
Photo via Wicked Weed
What was once a sleepy mountain town is now the appropriately self-dubbed Beer City, USA. Asheville, with its 21 craft breweries, has become a major beer vacation destination. Wicked Weed, one of the city’s most sought-after brands, has teamed up with Pints for Prostates to host their annual sour beer festival, which raises money for men’s health issues. The brewery, known for their own barrel-aged and sour beers, has crafted a best-of lineup for this event that includes the nation’s top brewers of wild and funky ales. Get the funk out with beers from Wicked Weed, Allagash, Cascade, Crooked Stave, Goose Island, The Lost Abbey, New Belgium, and scores more.
Palm Beach Summer Beer Fest
West Palm Beach, Florida
Photo via Palm Beach Summer Beer Fest/Facebook
Summer beer festivals are an institution, but an outdoor beer event near the Equator in July is a hard sell for even for the most ardent beer geeks. That’s why organizers for the Palm Beach Summer Beer Fest moved their event indoors, making it the area’s only air conditioned summer beer tasting. Beat the heat at the South Florida fairgrounds, where attendees can sample Florida breweries like Cigar City and Funky Buddha, as well as a wide selection of national and international craft beers, in the modern comforts of a climate-controlled environment.
Brew At The Zoo
Photo via Riverbank Zoo
Zoo brewfests are a thing, raising money for animal conservation in cities ranging from New York to Miami. The event at Columbia’s Riverbank Zoo and Gardens features more than 200 beers, including imported brands and locally produced ones, in a unique setting that includes not only animals, but also historic landmarks. Meander through the gardens, watch the animals, and interact with brewmasters who will be on hand to answer questions about beer styles and how the beers are made.
Savannah Craft Brew Fest
Photo via Savannah Craft Brew Fest/Facebook
Celebrate the end of summer in Savanna this Labor Day weekend. With more than 200 beers and unlimited two-ounce pours, this event allows attendees to sample the top craft breweries from around the world, including a healthy dose of the best of what the South has to offer. The event mixes beer tastings with other entertainment—previous years have included a mixology garden, an emphasis on ciders and meads, and, taking a queue from music fests like SxSW and Bonaroo, a silent disco to dance off those empty calories.
Plan Ahead: Two For Next Year
Magic City Brew Fest
Prohibitive laws in some parts of the Deep South have made it hard for craft beer to take root. Luckily, organizations like Free The Hops, an Alabama-based non-profit, have worked to overturn outdated regulations pertaining to homebrewing, ABV caps, and bottle sales. With more than 200 beers to sample, Birmingham’s Magic City Brew Fest helps to fund Free The Hops’ battles. Attendees should be aware of an oddity about the festival that speaks to Alabama’s archaic craft beer laws—the state prohibits beer give-aways, so the ticket price covers entry only. All samples are $.01 each, but organizers are quick to point out that the fee is honor-system based, meaning you can drop a couple of quarters and sample 25 beers at the event.
Best Little Brewfest In Texas
The name “Best Little Brewfest in Texas” understates the expansiveness of this festival, which is more than just a beer tasting. Start the day at the classic car show in Historic Old Town Lewisville. Then, quench your thirst at the extended VIP access party or hit the four-hour tasting, where attendees can select from more than 200 beers from 80+ breweries, most of them local to the Lone Star state. Local wines, ciders, and spirits will also be available. Still standing? Grab a bite to eat from one of the food trucks and head over to the after party.