======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ==== ======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ====
The weather in Chicago has been generally cold, dreary, and soul-crushing for the past few months. And while the start of baseball season is usually a good sign that spring is on its way, the start of beer festival season is an ultimatum that summer has arrived – and it’s coming up soon.
Typically taking place from May to September, beer festival season overlaps with many of the best moments of the year and often creates its own. As the craft beer scene has grown, beer festivals across the nation have grown with it, as they offer partiers, craft beer fanatics, and everyone in between the opportunity to indulge in unlimited pours of really good beer with a fun-loving crowd that gets progressively less coordinated as the day goes on. Plus, having a huge mix of craft brewers in one place at one time gives you the opportunity to test out new beer styles and new craft breweries entirely. My favorite thing about beer festivals is that it completely dispels any fear of Buyer’s Remorse that can afflict the average drinker trying to decide between the 20 different IPAs lining the shelves of their local retail shop.
After you buy your ticket (price-range varies), you don’t have to worry about buying a 6-pack or taking a $20 Uber to an obscure taproom – you can just let the unlimited drinks flow over you, as you chase a solid buzz over a Saturday afternoon with your buddies. There’s no pressure or expectations, you can come and go as you please throughout the different tents, and even doze off to live music if you’re at a big enough festival. And when you are ready to doze off, make sure you’re not driving as you will be heavily inebriated.
That said, these festivals do come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re like me, you’ve probably received a bunch of random “Your Friend is Interested in an Event Nearby” Facebook notifications for different beer events in your area. And while the local events in your area are a great way to get familiar with the craft brewers in your neighborhood, the larger festivals that people circle their calendars for every year are worthy of your extra attention, as they offer access to more breweries and better beer than you could have ever amassed in a single sitting. If you’re looking for a few of the top beer festivals in the States to check out this year, look no farther. Here are some of my recommendations:
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp (May 12, Chico, CA.; June 16, Mills River, NC):
Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp is near and dear to my heart as I have attended two of them. The first one ended up with me in bed by 3 p.m. The second one led to me losing my phone in a cab. Standard stuff. Beer Camp is the epitome of an adult playground coupled with awesome beer. This year, Sierra Nevada has decided to switch things up by hosting two different Beer Camps at their two locations in California and North Carolina. Tickets are cheaper this year ($25), primarily because you only get pours of Sierra Nevada plus a bunch of collaboration beers. But the pours are also full pours, which is awesome, and they also added a bunch of adult playground activities for your entertainment. If obstacle courses, human foosball and Hammerschlogan pique your interest, Beer Camp is for you.
Firestone Walker 2018 Invitational Beer Fest (June 2, Paso Robles, CA):
Hosted by Firestone Walker, this California-based beer invitational brings together 50+ different breweries from across the country on one Saturday afternoon. While the tickets are pricey (GA is $85), you do get unlimited pours of any beer you want, free food samples, and access to live music all-day. Firestone Walker will also offer a bunch of “ask the brewmaster” and guided beer tasting sessions for those interested. And with a lineup featuring the likes of Three Floyds, Jester King, Omnipollo, Side Project and more, it’s hard to find a better selection of beers than at the Firestone Walker Invitational.
Great American Beer Festival (Sept. 20-22, Denver, CO):
That said, the only beer list that can rival the FWIBF is the one found at the Great American Beer Festival. This is the premiere event for many hardcore beer fans, as it combines a festival that boasts the largest collection of craft beer in the U.S., with a private competition between breweries over highly sought-after GABF medals in categories like Best IPA. GABF plans to serve over 3,500 beers at their 2018 event. Thirty-five hundred. It’s the industry standard for craft beer and every brewery that can get a space on the convention floor is there. I haven’t been able to attend this festival as of yet but it’s definitely on my bucket list. General public ticket sales go on sale on August 2nd at 10 a.m. MT, but be warned, these sell out extremely fast.
Cheers to beer festival season – hope to see you there with a beer in-hand..