The blues, like jazz, is an American original. A great way to spend a summer’s afternoon or evening is at a blues festival. They’re going on all summer, from sea to shining sea. If there is good beer to be found at the fest, so much the better. If not, bring your own or head to the nearest brewpub after the music.
Here is the merest sampling of the great music on offer in the hot months.
June 1-3: 12th Annual Eureka Springs Blues Festival, Eureka Springs, AR, 501-253-5366, www.taglines.org: There are no micros in Arkansas, but Eureka Springs is just south of the Missouri border. Look for Unfiltered Wheat from Boulevard Brewing of Kansas City.
June 2: B.B. King Homecoming, Indianola, MS, 601-887-4454: And there are no micros in Arkansas, but next door in Louisiana is Abita Brewing. How about an Abita Wheat?
June 2-3: Blues Fest 2000, Newton, KS 316-837-4496: FMI Brewing and Pony Express Brewing are Kansas’ micros.
June 2-4: 22nd Annual AlleyFest, Longview, TX, 903-237-4000
www.alleyfest.org: There are many good micros in Texas, but when we’re in the Lone Star State we start by looking for Celis White (Celis Brewery) and Shiner Bock (Spoetzel).
June 2-4: Western Maryland Blues Fest 2000, Hagerstown, MD, 301-739-8577, x116, www.blues-fest.org: Blue Ridge Wheat from Frederick Brewing is our choice in Hagerstown.
June 8-11: Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago, 312-744-3315, www.cityofchicago.org/specialevents: Goose Island Summertime Kolsch from Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co. (also a brewpub) cools you down at Chicago’s blues fest.
June 9-10: 5th Annual Bricktown Blues & Bar-B-Que Festival, Oklahoma City, OK, 405-236-4143 www.bricktownokc.com: There are no micros in Oklahoma, but the Belle Isle Brewery, a brewpub, is downtown in Oklahoma City.
June 10: Blues on the Green, Anchorage, AK 907-277-7469: Borealis Brewery, Denali Brewing and Midnight Sun Brewing are all Anchorage micros.
June 10: San Diego Blues Festival, San Diego, CA 619-283-9576,
www.sdbluesfest.com: In this southern California city there are numerous brewpubs, as well as Karl Strauss Brewery Gardens (a micro/brewpub) and Ballast Point Brewing and AleSmith Brewing, both micros.
June 14-17: W.C. Handy Blues & BBQ Fest, Henderson, KY 502-826-3128, www.handyblues.org: How about a Hemp Beer from the Kentucky Hemp Beer Company in Lexington? Not that blues musicians would ever go near the stuff.
June 17: 3rd Annual Mountain of Blues Festival, Ruidoso, NM, 505-336-1980, www.ruidoso.net/bluesfestival: Bentley’s Brewpub is right there in bustling downtown Ruidoso.
June 17-18: 5th Annual Russian River Blues Festival, Guerneville, CA
510-655-9471, www.russianriverbluesfest.com: What can we say? There are so many great beers to choose from in California. Let’s just say that for this blues fest we’ll choose Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
June 23-25: Apple River Blues Festival, Somerset, WI: Just a bit south of Somerset, in Chippewa Falls, is Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing. Try their Berry Weiss with the blues.
June 23-July 2: du Maurier International Jazz Fest, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 888-GET-JAZZ, www.jazzvancouver.com: Beaver Beer Brewing Co., Granville Island Brewing, R&B Brewing and Storm Brewing are all Vancouver micros.
June 28-July 4: Red, White & Blues Festival, Boston, MA 617-227-1528, www.bostonharborfest.com: For the first of three Boston blues fests on our list, why not start out with Sam Adams Summer Ale?
June 30-July 2: 16th Annual Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, Davenport, IA, 319-322-5837, www.mvbs.org: You can’t get closer than Front Street Brewing Co., a brewpub, in Davenport.
June 30-July 4: 13th Annual Waterfront Blues Festival, Portland, OR
503-973-FEST, www.waterfrontbluesfest.com: Portland is one of those cities that flows with great beer from both micros and brewpubs. Here are the city’s micros: BridgePort, Full Sail, Hair of the Dog, Multnoma, Portland, Rogue Ales, Widmer Brothers and Yamhill.
July 7-8: Queen City Blues Fest, Cincinnati, OH 513-684-GCBS: If there’s a blues rendition of Honeysuckle Rose at the fest, then Honeysuckle Blond is the beer to have at Cincinnati’s brewpub, BarrelHouse Brewing.
July 8-9: North Atlantic Blues Festival, Rockland, ME 207-236-7660, www.midcoast.com/~bluesman: The rocky Maine coast of Rocky Bay, ME, boasts a micro named Rocky Bay Brewing. That’s a no-brainer.
July 8-16: 30th Annual Boston Globe Jazz & Blues Festival, Boston, MA, 617-267-4301: Harpoon Summer beer is our choice for Beantown’s second blues fest of the summer.
July 13-15: 7th Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival, Kalamazoo, MI, 616-381-6514, www.kvba.org: Bell Oberon Ale from Kalamazoo Brewing suits the bill―or rings the bell.
July 13-16: 9th Annual New York State Budweiser Rhythm & Blues Festival, Syracuse, NY, 800-234-4797 www.nysbluesfest.com: In Syracuse, upstate New York, you can find beers from the micros Middle Ages Brewing and Relyea Brewing.
July 29-30: 9th Annual Pocono Blues Festival, Big Boulder Lake, PA, 800-468-2442: Not far from the Poconos, where the resorts offer heart-shaped bathtubs for lovers’ weekend get-aways, is Allentown’s Old Lehigh Brewing. When I think of those tubs, I don’t think of Old Lehigh Virgin Crystal Wheat. Instead, I think of Old Lehigh Naked Pale Ale.
August 5-6: Blues in the Valley, Wilmington, VT, 802-464-6137: Vermont is craft beer country. Look for beers from Long Trail, Magic Hat, Otter Creek, Kross and Franklin County.
August 11-13: 12th Annual Bayfront Blues Festival, Duluth, MN, 715-394-6831, www.bayfrontblues.com: If you decide to go to all these blues fests, you’ll need a Marathon Wheat from Lake Superior Brewing, Duluth’s micro.
August 12: Cool Blues and Microbrews Festival, Wilmington, DE: Right in Wilmington you’ll find C & D Brewing, a micro, and Rockford Brewing, a brewpub.
August 18-19: Chenango Blues Fest, Norwich, NY, 607-334-5653, Ext. 6: Not too far north of Norwich is Utica, home of F.X. Matt Brewing and its line of Saranac beers.
August 25-26: Madison Blues Festival, Madison, WI: There are three brewpubs to choose from in Madison: Great Dane Pub and Brewing, J.T. Whitney’s and Angelic Brewing.
September 1-2: 11th Annual Budweiser Illinois Blues Festival, Peoria, IL, 309-673-2263, www.jaytv.com: When in Peoria look for beers from the John S. Rhodell Brewery or visit the Crooked Waters Brewery & Pub.
September 1-4: 21st Annual Long Beach Blues Festival, Long Beach, CA, 562-985-5566: Belmont Brewing and RockBottom are Long Beach brewpubs.
September 2: 12th Annual DC Blues Festival, Washington, DC, 202-828-3028, www.dcblues.org: Brewpubs in the nation’s capitol are District Chophouse & Brewery, Capitol City Brewing and John Harvard’s Brew House
September 8-9: 13th Annual Bull Durham Blues Festival, Durham, NC, 800-772-BULL, www.durham-nc.com: There’s the Tobacco Roadhouse Restaurant & Brewpub in Durham. In nearby Chapel Hill look for two brewpubs, Carolina Brewery and Top of the Hill
September 9-16: 5th Annual Baton Rouge Blues Week, Baton Rouge, LA, 225-383-0968, www.louisianasmusic.com: Abita, Dixie Brewing and Rikenjaks Brewing are all micros, just about equidistant to Baton Rouge.
September 15-17: Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, Telluride, CO, 1-888-278-1746, www.tellurideblues.com: Smugglers is Telluride’s brewpub. And how many great micros are in the state? Let’s not even try to count.
September 23-24: 5th Annual Boston Blues Festival, Boston, MA, www.bluestrust.com: For our third trip to Boston, we’ll have a Tremont Summer Ale from the Tremont Brewery.
September 23-24 : 28th Annual San Francisco Blues Festival, San Francisco, CA, 415-979-5588: When in SF, Anchor Steam Beer from Anchor Brewing sounds just right.
September 29-30: Town Point Jazz & Blues Festival, Norfolk, VA, 757-558-9658, www.festeventsva.org: Are you passionate about the blues? Then go for Wild Summer Passion Wheat Ale from Richmond’s Rock Creek Brewing.
September 30-October 1: Blues in the Canyon Festival, Crystal River, FL: Try Ybor Calusa Wheat from Ybor City Brewing, a Tampa Micro that’s just down the pike from Crystal River.
Thanks to Blues Revue Magazine, Dedicated to Blues Music, 800-258-7388.
Gregg Glaser is the news editor for All About Beer Magazine.