The Great American Beer Festival has returned every year since 1982, and the party grows bigger every year. There’s also the Great British Beer Festival, the Great Northern Beer Festival in Wisconsin, the Great Arizona Beer Festival, and the Great Japan Beer Festival. There’s even a Great American Distillers Festival, and the Great American Nano Festival celebrates the smallest of breweries in the U.S.
Why has no one thought of holding a Great American Wine Festival until now?
The inaugural event is scheduled for Saturday, November 16, 2013, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Portland, Oregon, and will showcase wines from more than 25 North American regions, with samples poured from as many as 200 different wineries.
The organizer, Zephyr Adventures, admits that it is hopping on the coattails of the Great American Beer Festival, which is sponsored by the Brewers Association, an industry trade group.
“Out of politeness, we did email our friends at the Brewers Association to tell them we were emulating their idea in the wine world,” says Zephyr spokesman Allan Wright.
The company, which offers wine- and beer-oriented tours around the world, also throws the annual industry Wine Tourism Conference, which will take place November 13-15, right before the festival.
“Just like in the beer world, there are hundreds of wine festivals each year,” Wright says. “None has the size, diversity, and impact of the Great American Beer Festival. We thought it was the perfect opportunity to create something that starts to resemble a true North American-wide wine festival.”
Of course, there are just a few differences between the GABF and the GAWF. For one, the last beer festival attracted 49,000 attendees for four sessions held over three days at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver; the wine fest is limiting ticket sales to 350. Other than spillover events at beer venues around the city, the GABF was the whole show; the GAWF offers an option to buy a combo ticket that includes admission to the Northwest Food & Wine Festival held at the same venue.
And the biggest difference? Wine tasters spit, while beer tasters swallow.
“In the wine world, all professionals spit,” Wright says “Even for non-professionals, there is so much wine available and it has such a comparative kick that spitting is a good idea. Most people will only spit (or dump) on occasion but at least it allows you to be discriminatory, drinking what you like best. I was told one time the makeup of beer does not allow one to adequately taste it when spitting. I don’t know if that is true or just someone giving himself a good rationale to not spit beer at beer tastings.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, go to the Great American Wine Festival.