Now that we’ve officially kicked off 2019 it’s time to start making travel plans for the year. Specifically, beer festival travel plans.
Beer festivals are a great way to try new beers you might not otherwise be able to and meet other beer enthusiasts while doing it. Almost every major city has a beer festival or two during the year that are worth popping into. There are a few big festivals around the country though, that are worth traveling to.
Here are five that I think are worth buying a plane ticket for:
The Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer, affectionately called FOBAB, is the world’s largest festival of barrel-aged beer. Held in Chicago each year, in 2018 the festival included beers from more than 200 different breweries around the United States.
Beers represented at the festival are often exceptionally rare, making this one a must-go for any barrel-aged beer enthusiasts. The festival also has a contest where it gives out awards to some of the best beers of the year. This year’s “Best of Show” award went to Bottle Logic Brewing’s Fundamental Observation.
San Diego, August
If you love IPAs then you’ve got to check out Modern Times’ Festival of Dankness. Held in San Diego’s Waterfront Park, the event features beers from a number of big names in the IPA world including Russian River, Pizza Port, and Stone.
Festival of Dankness is worthy of your travel time if only for how close you’ll be to a number of amazing breweries while you’re in Southern California. The San Diego area is crawling with amazing breweries that are worth checking out. That means you can turn a trip to a beer festival into a true beer-cation. Also, it’s Southern California, so you’ve got the beach.
Denver, Oct. 3-5
The Great American Beer Festival, or GABF, is one of my favorite beer festivals of the year. Last year’s festival included 4,000 different beers from over 800 breweries. Jameson also made an appearance on the show floor in 2018 to showcase beers that had been barrel-aged in former Jameson barrels. The festival runs Thursday-Saturday, with a session each night and one extra bonus session Saturday afternoon.
Tickets for GABF typically sell out in minutes, but after expanding in 2018, there were a handful of tickets available at the door for Thursday’s evening session.
San Francisco, November
When I moved to San Francisco in 2012 I looked at an apartment right across the street from Toronado the day after the barleywine festival. Lucky for me there were still a ton of great barleywines still on tap when I popped in for a beer after my showing.
The festival was traditionally held during San Francisco Beer Week in February, but now that the week has started to get more popular (last year I met more people from out of state than I did locals at events), it has moved to later in the year so it’s not (more) overrun. If you’re a barleywine fan then it’s a must-do!
Paso Robles, June
If you love discovering new beer, then the Firestone Walker Invitational is the beer festival for you. Held in Paso Robles, the event features just 50 different breweries, all hand-picked by Firestone Walker to attend.
“It’s been clear for years to just about anyone who attended the Paso Robles, CA event that beyond the oppressive heat, it’s pretty much the ideal festival,” our Jim Vorel said after the 2018 festival. “By cutting out the dross and streamlining the concept to include only those 50-some breweries that the folks at Firestone Walker think are among the best in the world, you’re left with an ironclad guarantee of quality.”