Drinking great beer should not be a solitary experience. There is something satisfying about gathering with likeminded enthusiasts in a special setting while sampling lagers and ales from near, far and wide.
We’re talking, of course, about beer festivals. Thanks to the growing popularity of beer, coupled with the big growth in the category around the country, it seems as if there is a festival happening every day. But with quantity also comes the chance for sameness. Those who have attended many festivals over the years will say that some will have an element of the mundane. So All About Beer Magazine asked a panel of experts and enthusiasts for their recommendations for American beer festivals that offer a unique experience. Some of our top selections are listed below. Obviously, this is just a sampling, and note that some of the dates are tentative. Sound off in the comments on festivals you think are worth a visit in 2015.
Now in its 15th year, this celebration of high-alcohol beers is held at a ski resort in the high elevation town of Vail, west of Denver, in the Rockies. Traditionally brewers bring out rarities for the attendees. Often described as a “bucket list” festival by brewers themselves.
Columbia, SC, Jan. 17
Raleigh, NC, April 11
Durham, NC, October
A celebration of beer culture and education, the World Beer Festivals (held by All About Beer) bring together the best of international, national and local beer. Currently held in Durham, NC; Raleigh, NC; Columbia, SC; and Cleveland, two more locations will be announced in early 2015.
Grand Rapids, MI
Held outside, in the dead of winter, in a part of the country that produces unforgiving frigid weather. Only Michigan-brewed beers are offered and help with the frost almost as much as the bonfires that dot the festival grounds. Long underwear is suggested.
The group known as Drink Craft Beer holds several festivals in Beantown each year, but because the two make a stellar pair we’re a fan of the beer and cheese festival. Sample lagers and ales matched with fromage from some of the finest breweries and creameries.
An annual celebration of respected and legendary beer writer Fred Eckhardt. Given the man’s skill at food and beer pairings, in addition to the rare beers offered from respected breweries, there is also an assortment of chocolates, cereal, cheese and candy. Plus, a chance to sing happy birthday to the great man himself.
Paso Robles, CA
Hosted by one of the more respected and award-winning breweries, this central California festival attracts breweries of equal caliber. One session only, many brewers bring special offerings, and time their beer releases, ensuring a pour for all.
With a growing number of breweries offering their beers in cans, this is a celebration of those aluminum cylinders. Held in a city with a growing beer culture, the fest brings together more than three dozen breweries, large and small, along with a bevy of local food trucks.
With unrivaled popularity in the seasonal beer category, Elysian Brewing Co. in Seattle takes the style to 11 with its annual celebration of the gourd. More than 50 breweries attend, pouring their interoperations on pumpkin beers, and the host offers more than 15 recipes.
Hosted by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., this festival celebrates the annual hop harvest. In 2014, more than 50 breweries attended and poured single-, fresh-, wet- and wild-hopped beers. The price of admission includes buffet-style food offerings from the brewery’s taproom.
Known as FoBAB, this annual event brings together everything from the funky to boozy, all aged on wood. Bringing in brewers from around the country, this is a must for anyone who enjoys beer that once lived in a barrel.
Held each year in a new location this event is sponsored by the Shelton Brothers beer importers, The Festival is a gathering of small, artisanal beer, cider and mead makers. It’s popular with serious beer geeks because it gives them a chance to get up-close and personal with the brewers themselves.
What do you think we missed? What’s on your beer festival calendar for 2015 and why? Tell us in the comments.