As we transition out of spring, people start thinking about summer activities. For some people, summer is all about bronzing at the beach, while others use summer to check baseball stadiums off of their Major League Baseball bucket list. For craft beer fans, summer means poring over a nationwide list of craft beer festivals that’s long enough to make your head spin. With that in mind, here’s a chronological list of 10 summer craft beer festivals that are worth checking out.
Washington Brewers Festival
Date: June 13-15?
Location: King County’s Marymoor Park, Redmond, Wash.?
What you get: A tasting cup and six tasting tokens. Additional tokens are $1.50.
Hops are essential to quality craft beer, and no state produces more hops than Washington. By virtue of conducting business in America’s hop basket, Washington craft brewers have access to the freshest hops, and they produce some seriously good beer.
With 88 different Washington breweries pouring, the Washington Brewers Festival is the perfect chance to experience the best of Washington brewing. If access to more than 250 different Washington beers isn’t enough to entertain you, there’s also live music and a brewer’s keg tossing competition to keep your attention. Forget a new cordless drill, and treat Dad to some quality beer this Father’s Day weekend.
Great Northern Beer Festival
Date: June 14
?Location: Hi-Pines Campground, Eagle River, Wis.?
Cost: $30 in advance, $35 at the gate (if available)?
What you get: Unlimited 2-3 ounce pours.
If you’re going to a beer festival in Wisconsin, (a state where the baseball team is called “The Brewers”) you know that it has to be serious. With beer from more than 30 different Upper Midwest breweries, the Great Northern Beer Festival isn’t joking around.
One of the big problems with attending a beer festival is worrying about how you’re going to get home safely. That’s one worry that Great Northern Beer Festival attendees don’t have to worry about, since the event takes place at a spacious campground. Whenever you’re done celebrating, you can feel free to run, walk or stumble back to your campsite and dread the impending morning light.
Date: July 5?
Location: Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard, N.C.?
Cost: $30 in advance, $35 at the gate
?What you get: Samples from 30 different can-centric breweries
Oskar Blues has an important place in the annals of craft beer history. As one of the first breweries to exclusively can their beers, they’ve helped change the attitude of American beer drinkers who previously viewed the can as vastly inferior to the bottle. While Oskar Blues is the most well-known brewery to use cans, they want to make sure you know that they aren’t the only one.
First held in 2009, Burning Can is Oskar Blues’ tribute to can-centric craft breweries. The annual Lyons, Colo. festival proved so popular, that for the first time, they’ve decided to hold an East Coast version of the festival at their brewery in Brevard, N.C. With their quicker cooling times and pool-friendly lack of glass, canned beers are the perfect way to have your summer beer. What better way to kick off summer than with a celebration of canned craft beer?
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America?
Date: Various dates across the country?
Cost: $65 ?
What you get: Commemorative tasting glass and unlimited tastings (where possible)
Sierra Nevada has been inviting brewers to their headquarters for “Beer Camp” since 2008. The idea is that they give the keys to their brewery to someone new, and see what they come up with. For 2014, Sierra Nevada kicked it up a notch, and collaborated with 12 different breweries to release a Beer Camp 12-pack. To celebrate July’s release of the 12-pack, they’re embarking on their Beer Camp Across America tour, and it should be a tour for the ages.
While the Sierra Nevada Tour is a celebration of their Beer Camp 12-pack, they’re also using it as a celebration of American craft beer. This festival is unique in that Sierra Nevada invited every American craft brewery (more than 2,700) to pour up to two different beers at the festival. As a solution to this logistical nightmare, Sierra Nevada divided the festival into seven geographical regions, and every brewery in each region is invited.
The festival kicks off on July 19 in Sierra Nevada’s hometown of Chico, Calif., and wraps up on August 3 at their new brewery in Mills River, N.C. If you’re crazy enough, you can join them for all seven festivals with a $400 season pass. No matter how many stops you take in, Beer Camp Across America shouldn’t be missed.
Real, Wild and Woody
?Date: July 19
?Location: Tempe Center for the Arts, Tempe, Ariz.
?Cost: $50 in advance, $65 at the door
?What you get: 20 tastings and a 10-ounce hand-blown glass snifter
Yes, you read that correctly, we’re recommending that you attend a summer beer festival in Arizona. Sure, hotel rooms can be had for next to nothing when the temperature rises to “I give up” levels, but cheap accommodations aren’t enough. A beer festival has to be something special to inspire people to venture out into the sweltering inferno of an Arizona summer, and the inaugural Real, Wild and Woody festival looks to be just that.
Every February, the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild puts on their Strong Beer Festival as a kick-off event for Arizona Beer Week. For Real, Wild and Woody, they’ve scaled that festival down to a more intimate VIP affair that gives attendees more access to the brewers. This isn’t a venue for breweries to pour their pale ale and IPA; expect offerings to include specialty casks and stronger barrel-aged beers. This is an indoor event, so don’t let the heat scare you off. Just make sure you get from your air conditioned car to the air conditioned Tempe Center for the Arts as quickly as possible so you don’t melt.
Oregon Brewers Festival?
Date: July 23-27
?Location: Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, Ore.
?Cost: Free ?
What you get: A la carte tastes from 80 different breweries.
Now in its 27th year, the Oregon Brewers Festival is one of the longest-running craft beer festivals in the United States. Every summer, craft beer fans gather in Portland on the last weekend of July to sample some of the best that the craft beer world has to offer. Typical of the laid-back Portland attitude, you can walk around and check out the sights and sounds for free.
If you do wish to partake, you’ll have to buy a festival glass ($7), and wooden tokens ($1 each) for tasting, and be advised that it’s cash only. A taste will cost you one token, and if you find something you really like, a full pour will set you back four. If you’re the designated driver, there’s also a root beer garden so you don’t feel left out. No matter your level of participation, there should be ample opportunities for you to do your part to help keep Portland weird.
Michigan Summer Beer Festival?
Date: July 25 – 26?
Location: Riverside Park, Ypsilanti, Mich.
What you get: 15 three-ounce tastes
Plenty of beer festivals feature breweries that bring two or three of their core beers. While a brewery’s core beers can be their best, it also gets repetitive if you attend multiple beer festivals. If you attend the Michigan Summer Beer Festival, you’ll be hard-pressed to find yourself bored.
With more than 800 different beers from 80 Michigan breweries, the Michigan Summer Beer Festival is an exercise in variety. The beer styles run the gamut from light to heavy, but be warned that some of the higher ABV beers might cost you more than one token. Fret not if you run out of tokens, additional tokens are available for purchase inside the festival for 50 cents. If you don’t already have tickets, you might not want to procrastinate. Saturday’s session is sold out, but tickets remain for Friday.
Breckenridge Summer Beer Festival?
Date: July 26
?Location: Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center, Breckenridge, Colo.
?Cost: General admission: $27.50, VIP: $67.50?
What you get: Unlimited samples from more than 30 different breweries. VIP includes a rare beer area and lunch.
With Colorado’s massive craft beer culture, it’s hard to pick a festival to represent the Centennial State. October’s Great American Beer Festival annually brings thousands of craft beer fans to Denver, so someone wanting to attend a summer beer festival in Colorado might want a change of scenery. There could be no better change of scenery than the Breckenridge Summer Beer Festival.
While Breckenridge is a winter sports mainstay, the summer months turn this mountain town into an action sports paradise. The natural beauty of Colorado’s Tenmile range of the Rocky Mountains is the perfect backdrop for a festival featuring more than 30 different craft breweries. Keep in mind that you’re at high altitude, so pace yourself. While there’s no evidence that high-altitude drinking increases the effects of alcohol, altitude sickness can make you feel worse. While it might be a burden, your best bet is to arrive a few days early to acclimate to this high-altitude playground.
Stone 18th Anniversary Celebration & Invitational Beer Festival?
Date: August 15-16
?Location: California State University, San Marcos, Calif.
?Cost: $45/session on Saturday, $80 for Friday’s Brewers Reception?
What you get: 15 three-ounce tasters of more than 100 different beers from Stone and more than 60 guest brewers.
When it comes to San Diego beer, no brewery casts a bigger shadow than the giant gargoyle-shaped silhouette from Escondido’s Stone Brewing. If you look at the company today, it’s completely unrecognizable from their humble roots when Greg Koch and Steve Wagner first started pouring Stone Pale Ale in 1996. The rapid expansion of the company and their robust beer portfolio prove that Stone Brewing doesn’t do anything small, and that definitely extends to their anniversary party.
For two days in August, Stone Brewing takes over the campus of California State University, San Marcos for a robust celebration of their hop-driven success. While the beer list hasn’t yet been released, you can count on a fully-loaded assault on your taste buds from every weapon in the Stone Brewing arsenal. While there will be plenty of great beers from guest brewers, you’ll definitely know whose party you’re attending. What else would you expect from the brewers of a beer with a name like Arrogant Bastard?
?Date: September 13
?Location: The Yards, Washington, D.C.?
Cost: Advance packages for $30 Goliath (general admission), $50 Hydra (VIP). Admission at the gate is $10
?What you get: Snallygaster mug and 25 tickets
While Snallygaster is almost two weeks after Labor Day, it’s still technically during the summer, and this festival is too unique to exclude. For most beer festivals, participating breweries decide what they’re bringing, and you’ll drink it and like it. Beer Director Greg Engert throws that model out the window, and personally selects every beer for the Snallygaster lineup.
By treating this beer festival like his tap lists for Neighborhood Restaurant Group venues, Engert creates an eclectic blend of seasonal brews, exotic imports and other rare beers. With more than 250 interesting beers, you’ll probably burn through your tickets quickly, as beers range from 3-6 tickets for a taster portion and 5-9 tickets for a full pour. If you manage to exhaust your ticket supply, additional tickets are available for $1. This is easily one of the more unique beer festivals of the year, and a perfect way to bid adieu to your summer of beer.