The left coast is a beer haven; California, Washington, and Oregon combined have more breweries than any other part of the country. The staggering number of beer makers translates into hundreds of beer events in any given month, ranging from intimate beer dinners to huge beer festivals. If you can’t hit them all, here are five beer summer festivals to get your exploration started.
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Most beer festivals predominantly showcase American beer makers, but at the Seattle International Beerfest attendees can sample beers from more than 200 breweries originating from 14 countries. “International” mostly means North America and Europe (although there are a few outliers), but the lineup is impressive and includes both famous and lesser-known breweries from Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Scotland, Spain, and, of course, the United States. The three-day, pet-friendly event is held at the Fisher Pavilion in the shadow of the Space Needle. Get tickets online in advance to save some scratch.
San Rafael, CA
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Since 2000, Breastfest has proved that beer is not just for bros. Now in its 15th year, the annual event raises money for the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic, a Northern California non-profit that offers support for low-income women battling cancer. The clinic provides alternative medical treatments such as acupuncture, massage, and Western and Chinese herbs to help alleviate the pain of cancer and its treatments. Sample beers from the best Northern California has to offer, including Bear Republic, Moylan’s, Lost Coast, and Russian River.
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This five-day celebration hosted by the Oregon Brewers Association is one of the longest running and largest beer festivals in the country. Celebrating its 28th year, the event draws more than 85,000 attendees throughout the last full weekend in July. The festival, which is held at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland, is free to attend and features 90 breweries from 15 states. Attendees purchase tokens ($1 each) and a souvenir glass at the event—four tokens gets you a full pint, one token gets you a taste. Organizers limit breweries to one beer each, which means that attendees can sample from a broad swath of the American craft beer landscape.
San Marcos, CA
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To celebrate nearly two decades of brewing, one of Southern California’s oldest breweries will take over three levels of Cal State San Marcos’ campus for a massive party and charitable fundraiser. Stone’s anniversary events have raised nearly $2 million and counting for charities. In addition to the release of the Stone 19th Anniversary Ale, expect other rare Stone beers (about half on cask), as well as beers handpicked from more than 60 of the best American breweries. Go Friday night for the Brewers Reception or hit one of two sessions on Saturday. Feeling hardcore? Spring for the Saturday All Access Pass, which enables entry to both sessions, as well as exclusive access to the Rare Beer section with more than 50 limited release beers.
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Before the age of stainless steel, all beers were aged in oak barrels, imparting a woody flavor into the brew. Bend, Oregon’s Little Woody festival celebrates that heritage with beers and ciders aged in new oak as well as spent wine and spirit barrels. Try oak-aged drinks from 15 of the Northwest’s top producers or sample ryes or bourbons from several small-batch American distillers. The event benefits the Des Chutes Historical Museum, which houses the tasting in Bend’s first modern school building.