Taking a cue from the world of music, the craft beer industry is currently in a festival frenzy. No matter where you live or the style of beer you prefer, there are a number of sudsy gatherings scheduled throughout 2020 that give enthusiasts the chance to try a variety of unfamiliar offerings, old favorites, and rare specialties in a single locale. Here’s a rundown of the nation’s most anticipated gatherings for beer lovers.
Where: Boston, Mass.
When: January 30-February 1
This annual celebration of boundary-pushing brews will feature over 100 beers that utilize unusual ingredients, unconventional techniques, or some combination of the two. While thousands attended the 2019 fest, this year’s event, which takes place at Boston’s relatively cozy Cyclorama, is limited to 725 attendees for each session and (no surprise) it sold out fast. If you missed out be sure to check BeerAdvocate’s message board and be on the lookout for someone willing to part with a ticket.
Where: Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: March 7
If you dream about stouts and sours loaded with fanciful ingredients, pro wrestling, and mouthwatering food stalls, then this just might be your Valhalla. Hosted by one of New York’s finest breweries, Other Half, Pastrytown will feature a veritable buffet of pastry-inspired beers from over 40 breweries—not to mention non-stop brawling from the good (and bad) folks at the New York Wrestling Connection. The addition of paired desserts is an extra sweet touch.
Where: Greensboro, Vt.
When: Summer (date TBA)
Hill Farmstead is one of the world’s most celebrated breweries, so it’s no surprise that their Festival of Farmhouse Ales is a tough ticket. The event takes place on Hill Farmstead’s remote yet bucolic grounds but is certainly worth the trip considering it’s the only opportunity of the year to sample such a wide variety of the brewery’s deservedly coveted saisons, stouts, IPAs and sour beers. Keep in mind a designated driver is required for entry, so if there’s ever a time to cash in a friend or family member’s I.O.U., this is it.
Where: Miami, Fla.
When: February 15
J. Wakefield is going all out for this year’s Wakefest, recruiting 120 craft breweries to participate in the festivities. Of course, don’t neglect the host brewery’s offerings, which will include nearly 30 of their own specialty beers. Attendees will also have a chance to purchase J. Wakefield bottles that will be exclusively available at the event. When you’re not busy pounding pours, pump your fists to the live DJ—this is Miami, after all.
Where: Tampa, Fla.
When: March 13
Cigar City’s biggest event of the year is in honor of its most celebrated beer, a Mayan-influenced imperial stout aged on cacao nibs, Madagascar vanilla beans, ancho chiles, pasilla chiles, and cinnamon. Each ticket will include unlimited samples courtesy of 150 breweries from across the globe, food pairings from local food vendors, a commemorative sampler glass, and last, but certainly not least, bottles of Hunahpu’s.
Where: Austin, Texas
When: Fall (date TBA)
It’s a treat to visit Jester King’s expansive farmhouse brewery grounds on any occasion but making the trip to the outskirts of Austin for the Funk N’ Sour Fest is particularly special. This is an intimate affair—only 250 tickets were released last year—that is highlighted by an expertly curated beer (specifically of the funky sour and saison varieties), wine, cider, and food experience.
Where: Munster, Ind.
When: May 16
Dark Lord Day marks the only opportunity to bring home 3 Floyds’ iconic motor oil-thick coffee and vanilla imperial stout as well as the beer’s ultra-limited barrel-aged variants. But this isn’t merely a bottle release. The event, which attracts an arena’s worth of fans to the brewery, features popular standards and limited brews from Three Floyds, plenty of guest taps, and live performances from a bunch of metal bands that will never appear on your mother’s Spotify.
Where: Madison, Wis.
When: August 8
Billed as the second-longest-running craft beer fest in the United States, the Great Taste of the Midwest has been around for over three decades, long before the industry’s current boom. The popular summer fest, which takes place in Madison’s Olin Park, offers stunning scenery and plenty of beer from over 190 craft brewers that reside in the Midwest.
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Where: Chicago, Ill.
When: November 8-9
The Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers (or F.O.B.A.B. for those in the know) is not for the faint of heart. As its name suggests, the focus of this always-popular fundraiser and competition is a celebration of beers that spend time—often years—aging in barrels, many of which previously held spirits. Over 200 breweries will be in attendance offering pours of rare, high-octane beers that will vie for the coveted Best of Show prize.
Where: Seattle, Wash.
When: September 18-20
Celebrate Oktoberfest in September with the fine folks at Seattle’s beloved Fremont Brewing. Expect top notch sausages and other festive fare, a stein hoisting contest, “Texas chainsaw” pumpkin carving, and of course, plenty of—as the Germans call it—bier. This is one of the few beer festivals that keeps the party going until midnight, so be sure to pace yourself.
Related Reading: How to Host Your Own Oktoberfest
Where: Denver, Colo.
When: September 24-26
Part competition, part tasting extravaganza, the Great American Beer Festival attracts over 60,000 attendees (that’s not a typo) and 800 breweries (also not a typo) from across the country, including all the heavy-hitters as well as a number of under-the-radar gems. It’s like the Oscars and Woodstock rolled into one monumental weekend and should be on every beer lovers’ bucket list.
Where: San Pedro, Calif.
When: January 25
Beer publication Hop Culture is no stranger to putting on incredible fests, and this beach-themed bonanza should be no exception. Attendees will be able to sample specialty beers from local favorites such as Horus, Bottle Logic, and Brouwerij West (which is hosting the event), as well as a number of superstar out-of-town breweries you wouldn’t otherwise find on the the West Coast.
Where: Paso Robles, Calif.
When: May 30
Paso Robles may be a wine town but on the second-to-last day of May, beer shall reign supreme. Acclaimed hometown brewery Firestone Walker will be hosting another installment of their wildly popular Invitational Beer Fest, which brings together several of their equally notable peers for some revelry on the Central Coast. Tickets sell out instantly, so be sure to keep any eye out for the event’s on-sale date.
Where: Portland, Ore.
When: July 3-5
Toast our nation’s independence with some independent craft brews at this annual celebration of Portland’s dynamic beer scene. Over 70 breweries currently call Portland home—there’s a reason it’s often dubbed “the best beer city in the world”—and many of them will be setting up shop at the fest. Sunday will be all ages so bring the family and enjoy the festival’s numerous food trucks and vendors who will be selling local artisanal goods.
Where: San Diego, Calif.
When: Summer (date TBA)
San Diego Waterfront Park will become the hoppiest place on Earth once again when it plays host to Modern Times Beer’s sixth annual Festival of Dankness. Expect IPAs of the West Coast, hazy, brut, and milkshake varieties, plus plenty of other hopped-up brews from Modern Times and dozens of other breweries based locally and beyond.
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