The art of a small batch craft beer is becoming a big business. The youth of America are speaking up and the pushback against big beer has begun. Craft breweries are merging to take on companies like InBev on their own turf – and in some cases, suing them for daring to call themselves “craft beer” (sorry not sorry, Blue Moon).
Even Budweiser has been overthrown as the King of Beers. The true king could now very well be laying in wait at a local brewery near you.
If you’re a craft brew newbie, you’re in luck: I guarantee you can find your King of Beers at a beer festival near wherever you’re reading this. The best beer festivals in America happen all year-round and you’re sure to find something you love for any season.
The best part about hitting up your local beer fest is finding a crowd of people who are as enthusiastic as you are, whether they’re holding a tasting glass or a tap handle. For the adventurous craft brew aficionado, however, there are some pretty amazing festivals you must visit before you bend the knee to just any beer.
Great American Beer Festival
The granddaddy of them all – this Denver festival goes through more than 7,300 kegs to become the largest collection of beer ever served. 4,000 beers from 800 craft breweries worldwide converge in the Rockies in September. Tickets sell out quick, and no wonder, its pavilions are larger than many beer festivals!
LA Beer Festival
LA is a food truck town, so it’s no wonder this annual and perpetually sold-out beer festival should make the list. Even though it’s probably the smallest fest on the list, it brings out 80 of the best of Southern California brewers and more than 200 of their finest beers.
Big Texas Beer Festival
Everything is big in Texas, including the beer festivals. 100-plus breweries bring 500-plus different beers for two days of new brews and live music, with one-third of the breweries from Texas, and the rest U.S. and international, there’s something for everyone at this annual Dallas Brew-ha-ha.
Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers
I included this one because wood and barrel aged beers are becoming all the rage at beer festivals in recent years. Only at FOBAB can you certain of getting the best wood and barrel-aged beers, meads, and ciders. This Chicago beer festival is one stout and porter fans just should not miss.
Five Boro Craft Beer Fest
This NYC beer festival guarantees the beer will be at the appropriate temperature, you’ll have great food to pair with the beer, there will be plenty of bathrooms, and most critical, ticket sales are limited – no lines to get a taste of any of the beers. That’s a bold promise for New York City. Drop by Brooklyn to taste the best brews New Yorkers have to offer.
Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beer Fest
Billing itself as the “ultimate throwdown of craft beer creativity,” the Extreme Beer Fest will feature 120 brewers and 400-plus beers, challenging brewers to bring their most creative, exclusive beers. 2019’s EBF will be in Boston, Mass in February – so bring a coat.
Great Vegas Festival of Beer
Imagine a giant, lavish beer festival held in the United States’ capital of sin – Las Vegas. More than 100 breweries pack 500-plus beers into this two-day festival that includes music, comedy, beer-inspired food and even the chance to give back to charity. Even when the festival ends, you’re still in Vegas and there’s plenty to do.
Great Taste of the Midwest
Sure, this list focuses on brew fests in New York, LA, Denver, Texas, and Vegas. But what about America’s heartland? Stop on over to Madison, Wisconsin for this giant event. The grounds are so big, people are invited to set up their own tasting station, with lawn chairs, food they brought, etc. It’s run by a nonprofit, so no one is making a buck to bring out 1,400 midwestern beers from more than 190 midwest breweries.
If you’re around Carpinteria, Calif. August 11th, you can catch the Booze League Crew hanging at the Surf and Suds Beer Festival – free water, no lines, and it all benefits the Young and Brave Foundation.
Blake Stilwell is a traveler and writer with degrees in television and film, international relations, public relations, and graphic design. He is a former Air Force combat cameraman whose work includes ABC News, NBC, HBO, and the White House. In his previous life, he was Communications Director for the Near East Foundation in the Middle East and Africa. Blake is based in LA but often found elsewhere.