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Top 20 US Beer Festivals for Beer Geeks

 

Toronado Barleywine Festival – San Francisco’s storied Toronado Pub has hosted this scintillating Barleywine-themed festival for over 20 years, but news broke in early 2016 that this festival was tragically ending due to the immense growth of San Francisco beer week to an endurance test of 700+ beer events in one of the most craft beer-soaked cities in the world.

However, this festival rose like a phoenix in September of 2016, and now this historical and highly regarded Barleywine-focused fest is back on the craft beer event calendar – hopefully for good.

The 24th annual rendition of this event featured classic Barleywines from Sierra Nevada, The Lost Abbey and Firestone Walker, and fascinating new concoctions from Beachwood BBQ & Brewing and Alesong Brewing and Blending.


The Culmination Festival – Yet another invitational beer fest, this extremely exclusive event is limited to only 300 lucky ticket holders and is hosted by Anchorage Brewing Co. in Alaska.

Only 31 breweries, including Anchorage, were on hand to pour beers at the last event, but many of the brews were supremely limited or one-off iterations of famous beers.

According to the brewery’s website, Culmination is “a celebration of some of the most unique breweries and the beers they have crafted. All of the breweries have been handpicked with the criteria of not only being some of the best in the world but also having never been in the great state of Alaska before.”


The Festival – Hosted by highly regarded importers Shelton Brothers Inc., this top-flight beer fest is simply dubbed “The Festival” and was last held in August 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Featuring selections from breweries, cideries, meaderies and even artisanal coffee roasters, this fest has everything a burgeoning beer geek would need in an event: beers to imbibe, palate-cleansing ciders and meads, and some gorgeous java selections to help perk up sleepy drinkers.

Everything on offer is imported stateside via Shelton Brothers Inc., though many rarities (and a few whales) have been spotted at this fest in years past. 


Hunahpu’s Day – Similar to 3 Floyds’ Dark Lord Day, this Tampa, Florida-based beer fest is focused on the thunderously thick Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout from Cigar City Brewing. Though hosted by Cigar City, this terrific gathering of the finest craft breweries will have 120+ breweries on the premises pouring unlimited 2-oz. samples (though take “unlimited” with a grain of salt, as many of these brewers would surely not last long).

Taking place March 10 this year, the revamped festival will be hosted at Raymond James Stadium – home to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hopefully, some swashbuckling breweries will also wash away your worries with sudsy goodness at this fest.


Ebenezer’s Belgian Beer Festival – Hosted at Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, Maine, this intimate affair has grown in scale and stature since its inception in 2004. Currently in its 14th iteration, this celebration is in honor of all things Belgian in the world of beer.

Lambics, Quads, Tripels and every manner of delightful Belgian rarity will be on hand, and this event has grown from a small gathering of Belgian-style-loving beer geeks to an extended, five-day-long siesta of beer and entertainment. Hell, even hip-hop legend Kool Keith showed up for the festivities in 2017!

Photo Courtesy Ebenezer's Pub


Firestone Walker Invitational – Invitational beer festivals, while rare, offer a unique celebration of craft brews. This top-shelf invitational is hosted by the highly regarded brewers at Firestone Walker in Paso Robles, California.

An “epic yet intimate” event that features only 50 breweries hand-selected by Firestone Walker, this beer fest always showcases unsung breweries that Firestone Walker Brewmaster Matt Brynildson and co. find to be extraordinarily talented at their craft.

Beer geeks would do well to make their way to Cali for this one, as they might fulfill their deepest beer desires by discovering new beers and breweries.


Delilah’s Vintage Beer Fest – This under-the-radar invitational beer fest is hosted by Delilah’s bar in Chicago. Though it doesn’t quite have the marketing and PR behind it that, say, the GABF does, this amazing low-key event showcases strong beers from over 50 breweries.

Many of the offerings are vintage and vertical tastings of famous brews like 3 Floyds' Dark Lord, Goose Island’s Bourbon County and Founders' CBS and KBS have been known to occur at this top-shelf vintage beer fest.

Big beers and barrel-aged rarities are, of course, the most sought-after offerings, but rarities of all shapes and sizes with a few years of age on them can be expected at Delilah’s.

Photo Courtesy Twitter/Delilah's


Belgium Comes to Cooperstown – Hosted by Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York, this celebration of Ommegang’s bread and butter – Belgian beer styles – occurs every summer on the brewery’s beautiful grounds.

According to the brewery’s website, ”since its debut in 1999, BCTC has grown from a modest gathering to a full-fledged festival with weekend camping, staged live music, a 700-person VIP dinner, late night movie screenings, receptions and lectures.”

Over 100 breweries will be pouring exciting Belgian-style ales to over 3,000 geeky festivalgoers. This is a can’t-miss event miles away from the hustle and bustle of New York City.


Classic City Brewfest – This regional favorite in Athens, Georgia has been going strong for over two decades, and its 23rd annual iteration will be held at the Athens Cotton Press on April 15th this year.

Featuring regional favorites such as Creature Comforts, Red Hare and Monday Night, this year’s version of the event will feature fascinating newcomers such as New Realm, Steady Hand and Variant Brewing Co., as well as standard-bearers in the craft beer world like Ballast Point, Highland and Lazy Magnolia.

Though the regular draft booths always have some nice pours, the true beer geeks will make a beeline for the cask ale tent, which features singular, one-off beers brewed with scintillating adjunct additions, as well as the rarities table, which pours a different exceedingly rare beer every hour.

Photo Courtesy Chris Guest


 

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Comments

Nealtryan's picture
A festival for your list is the Hoptober freshtival in Boise Idaho. 30+ breweries with fresh hopped beer.
Michael Rhyan's picture
How do you forget the Five Boro Craft Beer Fest? Might be the best of all of these in Brooklyn in May every year.
CajunBeer's picture
Check out the 7th Annual Bayou Beer Festival, November 9, 2019 on the grounds of Southdown Plantation in Houma, Louisiana. The event features a home brewers competition, live music, great food, craft booths, and the proceeds go to help local veterans assistance programs.

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Comments

Nealtryan's picture
A festival for your list is the Hoptober freshtival in Boise Idaho. 30+ breweries with fresh hopped beer.
Michael Rhyan's picture
How do you forget the Five Boro Craft Beer Fest? Might be the best of all of these in Brooklyn in May every year.
CajunBeer's picture
Check out the 7th Annual Bayou Beer Festival, November 9, 2019 on the grounds of Southdown Plantation in Houma, Louisiana. The event features a home brewers competition, live music, great food, craft booths, and the proceeds go to help local veterans assistance programs.

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