For some, it's an interest; for others, it's a preference – but for beer aficionados, the genuine passion and enduring appreciation for the craft brew is more of a love affair than anything else. I consider those of us who involve ourselves in this sort of romance to be a lucky bunch – on top of all the different ways beer is awesome, it's also widely celebrated, and therefore always accessible. Whether it's your favorite local bar, your friend's brewery or your town's major beer festival, you’ll never have to travel too far to find your beloved craft brews.
If you're a beer enthusiast, you're keenly aware of the Oktoberfests and Beer Weeks of the world – the thousands of festivals dedicated to the brewing, tasting and culture that surrounds craft beer. While an event like this may be the Belle of the ball, it's important to take note of the slew of non-beer festivals which still celebrate beerdom on a smaller scale. With a side-show focus on local breweries, these festival gems remind us that sometimes we find the beer we love in places we'd least expect. Here are five unconventional non-beer festivals for beer lovers that bring something different to the table.
National Morel Mushroom Festival
Boyne City, Michigan
This Boyne City, Michigan festival has been around for over 50 years and draws in hundreds of attendees each May. The mushroom-centric festivities take place over the course of three days and give attendees the chance to sample a smorgasbord of tasty button-cap delicacies.
Mushroom festivities aside, there’s a sideshow going on here. The first day of the festival kicks off with a massive Craft Beer Block Party in downtown Boyne City. The block party features twenty local craft beer brewers, serving up everything from barrel-aged stouts to hopped- up IPAs. The following Michigan breweries participated in this year’s event:
Arbor Brewing Co.
Try the Night Stalker (American Stout) or the Pivo Baltic Porter (Porter)
Try the Firefly Pale Ale
New Holland Brewing Co.
Try the Dragon’s Milk (Bourbon Barrel Stout) or Mad Hatter (Midwest IPA)
North Carolina 'Cuegrass Festival
Raleigh, North Carolina
What better way to enjoy a refreshing craft beer than with juicy, Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue? Raleigh’s ‘Cuegrass Festival exists to make this combination a reality. Celebrating the three B’s – barbecue, bluegrass, and beer, ’Cuegrass Festival brings in some of the region’s most renowned pitmasters, musicians and local breweries for a full day of family fun.
Since the festival’s onset in 2009, one of its distributors, RA Jeffrey’s, has provided the beer selections. While the actual selections change every year, they typically serve craft beer from local breweries such as Big Boss and Lonerider, as well as beer from New York breweries like Brooklyn and Blue Point.
Big Boss Brewing Co.
Try the Hell’z Bizz-ness, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Lonerider Brewing Co.
Try their Magnificent 77, an American IPA
National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show
Albuquerque, New Mexico
This culinary celebration serves all types of palates and is the biggest festival of its kind in the nation. Over the course of three days, attendees can sample an endless array of hot and spicy salsas, rubs, marinades and sauces.
What better way to cool down your tastebuds than with a cold craft beer? That’s why this festival features a Craft Beer Tasting Stage, which is run by Premier Distributing. The stage provides guests with the opportunity to sample Premier’s entire craft brew portfolio, with appearances in past years from Odell Brewing Company, Alaskan Brewing (try the Alaskan Amber), Goose Island Brewing, Red Hook Brewing Company, Widmer Bros. Brewing and Kona Brewing. This year, the Odell IPA was the most popular beer selection among guests.
Omaha Brewers Barbecue
Hosted every summer, the Omaha Brewers Barbecue celebrates the city’s growing craft beer scene with live music and delicious barbecue. Guests can choose from a full menu of traditional barbecue items such as smoked pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, smoked mac & cheese and more.
In the Beer Garden, attendees can enjoy summer seasonal brews from select local breweries, including:
Blue Blood Brewing Company
Brickway Brewery & Distillery
Empyrean Brewing Company
Infusion Brewing Company
Kinkaider Brewing Company
Lucky Bucket Brewing Company
Nebraska Brewing Company
Scriptown Brewing Company
Thunderhead Brewing Company
Upstream Brewing Company
Rainier Mountain Festival
How many festivals can you attend with the Rainier mountain range as the backdrop? This two day extravaganza gives festival-goers the privilege of combining outdoor adventure and craft brews with one of the most beautiful settings in the United States. Featuring five-mile tail runs, mountain expeditions, film slideshows and more, Rainier Mountain Festival is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
Beer lovers at the fest should head to the Rainier Base Camp, where they can grab a cold beer from a Northwest brewery like Harmon, Hop Valley and Georgetown. They typically serve pizza and burgers as well!
Harmon Brewing Co.
Try their Super Samurai Barley Wine Ale (American Barleywine)
Hop Valley Brewing Co.
Try their Alpha Centauri Binary IPA (American Double/Imperial IPA)
Georgetown Brewing Co.
Try the Cousin Eddy (American IPA)