Food - Drinks
By: - at August 29, 2013

Top 15 Best American Beer Festivals

american beer festival girls in bar whench clothesBeer festivals are traditional components of many cultures in many parts of the world, and the United States is no different. The USA is home to numerous beer festivals that are held year-round. Recently, home brewing – making beer at home – and microbrewing – small, independent brewing companies serving a local area – have been taking off in popularity. These "craft" beers take a lot of trial and error to create, as well as time, creativity, and passion. Like any hobby that results in creation, people who make beer and sell it ultimately like to show their creations off. Thus the craft beer festival was born, and with more flavors and choices than ever, the beer market is experiencing constant annual growth.

Recently larger brewing companies are starting to notice that the general public is starting to drink more craft and local beers in certain regions. Buying local initiatives in places like the Midwest and far Western regions of the country have given small brewing companies a foothold, allowing them to compete with larger entities based on economies of scale. Many of these small companies get their start going to local beer festivals so they can show off their goods and reach a larger audience. Below is a list of fifteen brew and beer festivals in the United States that are worth trying out if you’re in the area and are curious to see what’s going to be popular in the coming season.

15)  Savor – New York, New York  (Washington, D.C.)
A fairly young beer festival that has its original home in Washington D.C, Savor caters to craft beer and fine cuisine lovers exclusively. With Savor it's not only about the beer where at this particular festival, it is about the execution of successful food pairings. Foodies will be delighted to find the best pairings for their favorite craft beers, and beer lovers will be able to figure out what's best to serve alongside their favorite brewery's offerings. Because it seeks to be a more intimate setting that other beer festivals, Savor tends to sell out far in advance when compared to other beer festivals. They tout their "reception-style sampling" of food and have an impressive 70 craft breweries in attendance.

The Savor American Craft Beer Festival
The Savor American Craft Beer Festival

Because of the smaller size of the festival, they also advertise that you will be able to have conversations with current brewers and representatives from all of the different brew houses at the festival. For beer enthusiasts this is a rare, and often cherished, opportunity. It's billed to be a smaller, more casual event where you will be able to pick the brain of brew masters who will be on hand to explain their craft and the experience that they have had in creating their beers.

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14)  Where the Wild Beers Are  (Minneapolis, Minnesota) & (Brooklyn, New York)
You're not likely to find a small kid in costume becoming king of the monsters here, but whose to say that you won't? Where the Wild Beers Are is an interesting event that caters to a very specific subset of brewers and beer drinkers: Wild/Sour beer. Wild beers get their name because they have been exposed to "wild" yeast instead of the pure, cleaned yeast that most brewers use. Wild yeast is not dirty, but it does add a different and more of a tart to the flavor of the beers. This different and tart flavor is the kind of beer you would be drinking at this particular festival. Another difference between wild or sour beer and the typical beers that you can buy is that these are almost always very dry because the yeast has broken down almost all of the sugars during the fermentation process.

Patrons Tasting Beers at the Where the Wild Beers Are Festival
Patrons Tasting Beers at the Where the Wild Beers Are Festival

One of the other things that sets Where the Wild Beers Are apart from other beer events is that a crowd sourcing event for commercially produced beers is held during the festival. What that means is that you have to bring a few bottles of beer with you to share if you expect to get into the event. Where the Wild Beers Are encourages people to look up interesting beers to bring with them. You have to bring bottles to pass around or you don't get in. Your ticket is essentially the beer that you bring to share with others. This is an excellent way to hopefully try a few beers that you've never heard of while showing off something that you find particularly tasty.

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13)  World Beer Fest  (Various Cities)
Unlike the two newer festivals previously reviewed, the World Beer Festival is nearly twenty years old. This is in part because it is the official beer festival for All About Beer magazine. The festival's mission is to educate people about beer quality and appreciation. They also seek to help foster local beer cultures and communities. They seek to create an extremely positive experience for everyone in attendance. World Beer Festival also has a large collection of media outlets, including Wired and USA Today, who have written about the festival.

An Attendee at the 13th Annual World Beer Festival Held in Durham, North Carolina - 2008
An Attendee at the 13th Annual World Beer Festival Held in Durham, North Carolina - 2008
By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Educational experiences are at the core of the festival's mission, and the World Beer Festival is a great place to learn about both tasting beers and making them on your own. They call the event "reminiscent of a meandering beer dinner". The event will take you through eight different stations where you will taste beers from Carolina and Brooklyn Breweries. Each of the eight stations will have a different pairing of food to go along with the beer offerings. These stations will also include discussion about how to properly brew beer and how to pair it with the right selection of food to please guests at your own event. There will also be educational materials on hand, along with free trial subscriptions of All About Beer.

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12)  Great American Beer Festival  (Denver, Colorado)
Great American Beer FestivalThe Great American Beer Festival holds a Guinness World Record for the largest amount of beers available for tasting in one location. Here you will find almost 3,000 beers from over 600 American breweries all in one place! The Great American Beer Festival takes pride in the selection that it boasts and goes to great lengths to find the most choices for its attendees. Because of the size of the event, these beers are arranged geographically by the regional location of a particular country. You can follow along the floor with a map of your own.

There is no need to rush yourself through the selections that are offered. The festival spans three full days in October and draws a crowd that pushes almost fifty-thousand people. This well organized event and beer competition is one of the largest of its kind in the entire country. On top of it's size, the Great American Beer Festival is the top public brewing competition and public tasting in the United States. Breweries are competing to win the festival's recognition and monetary prizes, and above all else trying to bring back a little piece of glory!

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11)  Fremont Oktoberfest (Seattle, Washington)
Another three day festival, the Fremont Oktoberfest in Seattle Washington is an outdoor event hosted towards the end of September. There are over 40 different breweries in attendance at the Fremont Oktoberfest. The purpose of the event is to showcase the upcoming fall brews. You can grab a taste at their covered beer garden to get an idea of what sort of beers you can look forward to drinking during the fall. It is kind of similar to a fashion designer revealing their line a season or two ahead of actual production. Once you have a good idea of what you like, you can head off to the Buxom (that means big) Beer Garden inside the Tasting Garden. Settle in with a pint of your favorite beer and take a load off.

Patrons Celebrating at the Fremont Oktoberfest - Seattle, Washington
Patrons Celebrating at the Fremont Oktoberfest - Seattle, Washington

The Fremont Festival is geared for people to be in for the long haul. Aside from the main tasting gardens there are three lounges with food and movies available in case you need to take a breather. Unlike other large festivals, this one is geared to be a family event. There is a kid's area, a pumpkin carving and also Dogtoberfest on the Sunday where you are welcome to bring your furry best bud with you. Just don't let Fido have your beer.

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10)  Asheville Beer Week / Beer City Festival  (Asheville, North Carolina)
beer city festivalThe end of May through the first week of June is Asheville Beer Week. A newer beer festival, this eight day event is only in it's second full year. This week is more of a conference than a festival. There is beer tasting, seminars, educational events, dinners, and keynote speakers all discussing - you guessed it- beer! This event is all craft beers and seeks to focus on the growing community of brewers in Asheville. Like most cities of it's kind, Asheville has been hit with the growing popularity of micro or craft brewing and this event seeks to capitalize on that while getting out the local products for consumption.

There are mobile applications available to keep you up to date on what's going on and inform you of any major event changes. The convention finishes off with the Beer City Festival on the Rodger McGuire Green. The Beer City Festival is a true festival with dozens of breweries and plenty of live music and food to get you through. Unlike the Beer Week, the Festival itself has been going strong for five years now and continues to grow every year.

Event Sites:  &

9)  Columbus Beer Fest and Microbrew Fest (summer / winter)  (Columbus, Ohio)
Columbus Beer Fest and Microbrew Fest (summer / winter) The Midwest is famous for its beer. From Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland, OH to Budweiser, large brewing companies have grown and flourished over the years. Columbus Ohio is no exception and has recently been hit with a large demand for local brewers and breweries. So much so, that they host two large beer festivals in the summer every year. The Summer Microbrew Festival is hosted outside at the historic North Market. The North Market is a local, year round farmer's market that operates out of a reclaimed shipping space just outside of City Center, close to the center of downtown Columbus. Enjoy the delicious tastes of Columbus while wandering around the wide assortment of brewers.

Also in the summer is the Columbus Beer Fest at the LC Pavilion. This festival hosts far more beer selections from a wider ranger of brewing companies, and goes on for two whole days! This is the festival that happens once again, in the winter months to showcase the next season of beers. The winters in Columbus aren't suited to outdoor festivals, so they move the winter to the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Both events host the same breweries, however the collection and beers that they bring are vastly different. Seasonal selections are unveiled by local micro and craft brewers and even larger local beer companies such as the aforementioned Great Lakes get in on the action.

Event Sites:  &

8)  Great Taste of the Midwest  (Madison Wisconsin)
The Great Taste of the Midwest is one of the largest and longest-running craft beer festivals in North America. It hosts over 100 breweries and they serve over 1000 different beers. It's pretty fitting for a city that calls itself the Beer Capital of the Midwest! At the event you will have the chance to speak with local brew house owners and brew masters about their craft and how they make their beers. They try to keep ticket sales to a certain level to encourage people to talk about the beers, take their time, and learn what they are drinking.

What Will You Be Drinking At the Great Taste of the Midwest?
What Are You Drinking At the Great Taste of the Midwest?

Unlike many similar events, the Great Taste offers unlimited samples with the price of admission. While they encourage everyone to enjoy themselves they caution to not try everything and to take your time. They also provide you a program guide that explains every beer at the event so you're pretty well informed before you make your selection. These books are kept by many people so they can use it as a beer guide later. Like many similar sized beer events, there are cell phone applications available to keep you updated on any changes that happen as soon as possible.

Event Site:

7)  Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine Festival  (Alaska)
Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine FestivalOne of the greatest barleywine festivals in the country, the Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine Festival is also a diabetes benefit. Barleywine is a strong style of ale that originated in England. It has a wide range of colors and can be noted by it's high alcohol content. The funds raised at this event will go directly back into the state community to assist in education and treatment of childhood diabetes. They also fund a summer camp program to aid in social and personal development. This is the primary focus of the event.

After the mission statement, the president of the Brewer's Guild in Alaska goes on to explain the best ways to enjoy the beer selection. There are over 250 beers available at the event for you to partake in along with a lot of local food. As with most beer events, you'll get a chance to have one on one conversation with brew masters and learn about the differences between barleywine and wine itself.

Event Site:

6)  American Craft Beer Fest  (Boston, Massachusetts)
American Craft Beer FestThe American Craft Beer Fest is in it's sixth year, and largest celebration of American craft beer on the east coast. This year's festival included over 640 beers made by over 140 breweries. Quite an impressive collection! The festival took place over two days and attracted 5,000 attendees. First-hand accounts say the crowds were amazing. The event was held at the Seaport World Trade Center Boston, and at one point, the line to get in stretched around the entire circumference of the building. Thankfully, the event organizers knew what they were doing and once inside, the crowds were well managed, and the attendees could focus on the things that were actually important, namely the beer.

There were a huge variety of brews and brewers represented, from relatively well known craft brewers, to cult hits, to local breweries, to new start-ups. All in all, ACBF attracts a stellar lineup. In addition to hosting one of the biggest collections of brewers and brews, the American Craft Beer Fest is dedicated to supporting craft brewers, so they pay for all the beer served, and also waive booth fees so there's no cost prohibiting brewers from showing up to promote their wares.

Event Site:

5)  Oregon Brewer’s Festival  (Portland, Oregon)
Oregon Brewer’s Festival  (Portland, Oregon)If you're looking for a big brew fest that draws the attention of brewers all over the country, this is one you wouldn't want to miss. The Oregon Brewer's Fest is currently celebrating its 26th year with a festival at Portland's Waterfront Park. Over 80 different craft beers are available at this year's Brewer's Festival, representing breweries from across the United States. Everything is represented, including Belgians, Blondes, Pales, Pilsners, Saisons, Wits, and more.

It's really no surprise that Portland would become the home to one of the longest running and most beloved beer festivals in the US. As the Oregon Brewer's Festival website puts it, "Oregon has a love affair with beer that stretches back to 1888." That was when local Portland brewer Henry Weinhard offered to pump beer from his brewery into a new fountain to celebrate its unveiling. When microbreweries started popping up in the 1980's, Oregon was all for it. Portland holds an unofficial title as the brewpub capital, with more brewpubs and microbreweries than any other city in the world. The idea for the Oregon Brewer's Festival came from a Portland brewer who had visited Oktoberfest in Germany and want to recreate the exciting atmosphere of a big German brewery back on his home turf.

Event site:

4)  Great Northern Beer Festival  (Eagle River, Wisconsin)
Great Northern Beer Festival Great Northern is an annual summer beer festival, and their website is already counting down days until the next run in June 2014. The festival is held on a campground in scenic Eagle River, Wisconsin. If you like camping, this is the perfect place to go for a beer festival. Set up your camp one night, enjoy nature in the morning, and fill yourself up with beer in the afternoon. If you're not local and don't like camping, don't worry. There are also plenty of motels around.

This is a regional festival, which means you get a unique opportunity to try brews from all the small breweries from around Wisconsin. When you enter the festival, you get a list of everything that's available, and even a little pencil to take notes. People here want you to taste things you haven't experienced before and to remember what you taste. And of course you get some local musical entertainment to go along with it.

The hosts of the Great Northern Beer Festival encourage people to stick around for the entire weekend and enjoy the local environment. Eagle River has plenty of restaurants, shops, resorts, and fishing spots to keep people occupied for a day or two after they're done filling themselves with delicious brews.

Event site:

3)  Raley Field Brewfest  (Sacramento, California)
 Raley Field BrewfestRaley Field is known first and foremost as the home of the Sacramento River Cats baseball team, but baseball is only the tip of the iceberg as far as what really goes on around there. They are set up to be the happening place in town, no matter what the occasion. They host all sorts of community events including concerts, charity walks, food competitions, soccer, and probably everything else you might think of. And, of course, a big summer beer festival.

The Brewfest is a partnership between Raley Field, Nothern California Brewer's Guild, and Wingstop, and takes place every year in June. The 2013 Brewfest attracted over 60 brew vendors, and the list gets longer every year. Good entertainment is a necessity for a festival, and the Brewfest brings in a live band to hang out at Raley Field and please the crowd. This year's band of choice was The Remedies, a local Sacramento band with a large and varied repertoire.

There was plenty of food to choose from too, including barbeque, sausages, and all the other staples. Tickets included ten beer tastings, but there were more available for purchase for those people who just couldn't get enough.

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2)  Burning CAN Beer Fest  (Lyons, Colorado)
Burning CAN Beer Fest This is one exciting beer festival! Burning CAN is a gathering of 35 breweries who can, hosted by Lyons' local Oskar Blues. It's designed to coincide with the Lyons Outdoor Games so sports spectators can try out a few new brews while they watch the events of the games. The festival is timed to go along with the BMX dirt-jumping competition to provide some entertainment in the form of "bike-jumping bad-assery!"

Oskar Blues started as a brewery in 1999, and in 2002 made the monumental decision to package their beers in a can. Some people just hate canned beers, but even most of those are willing to admit that Oskar Blue's stuff is good. Since then, they've come out with a good handful of different brews, including Dale'ss Pale Ale, Mama'ss Little Yella Pils, Old Chub, Deviant Dales, G'Knight Imperial Red, GUBNA, Tin FIDY, and B. Stiff & Sons Root Beer. They're proud of their canned brews, which is why they decided to host the Burning CAN festival for "breweries who CAN." Part of the proceeds are donated to the Town of Lyons Department of Parks and Recreation and to the Colorado Brewers Guild.

Event site:

1)  The Festival  (Portland, Maine)
The FestivalSometimes the name says it all, and sometimes it doesn't say much of anything. A simple name like, The Festival, doesn't seem to sound like there is too much going on. Do not let a name fool you! Beer aficionados from around the world gather at The Festival similar to global wine tastings held in Europe. This includes brewers planning to showcase their latest creations, and owners of  world-renowned restaurants looking for beer to make proper additions to their menus

There will be special tastings offered for some beers, including some from very old vintage bottles. Beyond the wide selection of great beers at The Festival, the primary draw for beer lovers is the opportunity to see so many big names in the industry gathered in one place. Says one man planning to drive to The Festival from his home in Pennsylvania, "Some of these brewers—in our weird, demented, beer geek world—are like celebrities, and you don't get to meet these people on a daily basis."

Event site:

Beer Festivals are not just for alcoholics, but rather are great opportunities to socialize with others and have a truly great time experimenting with different types of beers. It really can be amazing to see what microbrewers are capable of brewing, with all the strange and amazing flavors they are able to incorporate into their beers. They put time and effort to make their beers and are, on average, extremely happy to share stories of how the beers came about. These stories include what they did, and how many tries it took them to find the perfect batch to get the results they desired. The point of a beer festival is to find something you like and learn about the creation while enjoying yourself with like minded people. No experience is needed and there will be plenty of people to teach you things about beer the entire time you are attending any one of these festivals.

Some festivals are geared specifically to smaller and local brews, while others are looking to simply have the largest party that they can while showing off seasonal creations. Depending on where and when you hit up a brew festival, you are bound to have different experiences. Beer festivals are great places to meet new people and try new things!





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