Just as there are wine snobs, the rise in craft brewing and craft brew consumption in this country offers us evidence that the day of the beer snob has arrived. Tourism organizations are starting to more heavily promote these events and the events themselves are increasingly comprehensive, impressive and well attended. It helps that the six we've featured here are in places with popular attractions (beyond beer) and useful tourism infrastructures, too. We've compiled a half-dozen of beer festivals around the world for your perusal. There are many more across the country and around the world -- too numerous to name here -- but you can find some of them through our events database at events.frommers.com.
The magazine Beer Advocate (www.beeradvocate.com) offers a festival every few months in Boston. In just a week, February 15-16, they're running the fifth annual Extreme Beer Festival. It sold out in record time, according to Todd Alström, who co-founded Beer Advocate with his brother Jason. Later in the year look out for Boston Beer Week June 13-22, designed to promote beer awareness and education in the Boston area and promises to be a collaboration with local brewers, bars and restaurants. Concurrent with that, on June 20-21, they're holding the American Craft Beer Festival at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston in June, an event with more than 75 brewers and 15,000 in attendance.
Fall means it's time for the Euro Beer Fest (September 26-27) featuring European beers and brewers. Details for the events will be revealed when they are finalized, but Alström says the dates are firm. You must purchase your tickets in advance -- you can't buy them at the door and their events typically sell out. For the American Craft Beer Fest, the price is $40 per person, per session -- other fests typically command the same price unless it's a special session, which is usually $50 per person. Right now all of the ticket pricing information is not up on its website, but it will be posted soon, says Alström. Can't get to Boston? Beer Advocate is an excellent resource for beer events all around the country, from beer pairing dinners to cheese and beer tastings, and other special events. For suggestions on accommodations and restaurants and attractions the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau site is useful (tel. 888/SEE-BOSTON; www.bostonusa.com)
In one of the motherlands of beer, Belgium, you'll find the Fifth Annual Zythos Bier Festival (www.zbf.be), which takes place the first weekend in March in Sint-Niklass in eastern Flanders, on Saturday March 1 from noon to midnight and Sunday March 2 from 11am to 9pm. A tasting will set you back €1.20 per token, and a tasting glass will set you back about €3, which is refundable (if you want) upon exiting. Expect to encounter more than 200 original Belgian beers from more than 60 Belgian brewers. You can wander freely from tent to tent and sample beers individually as your leisure -- the festival really showcases the individual brewers and gives you the opportunity to speak with them. Run by the beer consumer organization Zythos (which means beer in Greek), the festival's precursor was the 24-hour beer Antwerp event that was run by the OBP -- when translated, its name meant Objective Beer Tasters. You don't have to buy tickets to get in -- it's free -- and you don't have to make any reservations making this perhaps the easiest festival to navigate; it's also easily accessible from larger Belgian cities such as Antwerp. For more information on traveling to Belgium (including recommendations for other beer-worthy destinations), check out the Belgian Tourist Office (tel. 212/758-8130; www.visitbelgium.com)
March is beer month in Philadelphia, starting on the first with Philly Craft Beer Festival (tel. 631/940-7290; www.phillycraftbeerfest.com), a one-day event at the Navy Yard Cruise Terminal with 50 breweries and 120 beers. That event is a nonprofit event to raise funds for the Committee to Benefit the Children fundraiser; admission costs $40 if you purchase it online and $10 if you're the designated driver. That's followed by Philly Beer Week, which starts on March 7 and goes actually for ten days, until the 16 (tel. 610/668-0164; www.phillybeerweek.org). The latter includes dinners at select restaurants in the city, tastings, meet-and-greet events with brewers, food-and-beer pairings, demonstrations on home brewing, all of which heavily feature regional brews. For information on where to stay while you're in town, visit the site for Greater Philadelphia tourism (tel. 800/537-7676; www.gophila.com), which also has a page about all the events (www.gophila.com/beer) that will go live the week of February 11.
As the weather improves, so does the frequency of beer festivals. Montreal runs a Mondial de Bier (tel. 514/722-8467; www.festivalmondialbiere.qc.ca) May 28-June 1, which bills itself as "the most important beer festival." The event runs Wednesday-Saturday, 11am-10pm and Sunday 11am-8pm. It's a five-day affair with free admission and this year marks the event's 15th anniversary, with more than 100 breweries, cider producers and others, more than 166 new products and more than 375 products featured overall. Currently about a dozen U.S. breweries are confirmed along with ten from Europe and the festival's new French pavilion adds another 13. In conjunction with its anniversary, 15 unique products are being produced or brewed especially for the occasion. Other seminars are taking place, too, if you want a more in-depth look -- stay tuned to the site for more information.
Right now, you can, however, sign up now for a $38 package that includes a T-shirt, ten coupons worth $1 each, a beer tasting guide, mug, a "beer trek" map of Quebec and the official festival program. This offer is only valid until February 14, however. The regular package is available for $20 and includes everything the other one has, except for the T-shirt and the beer trek map. Last year's event attracted some 85,000 people and also featured workshops on beer, cider, and cheese pairings. Accommodations are available at special rates for festivalgoers at Hotel Dauphin (tel. 888/784-3888; www.hoteldauphin.ca) from $109 plus tax and Fairmont Queen Elizabeth (tel. 514/961-3511; www.fairmont.com), from $184 plus taxes; both are located in Montreal. Or investigate other options through Montreal's tourism site (tel. 877/BONJOUR; www.tourisme-montreal.org)
From July 25-28 (Thursday-Sunday), the Oregon Brewers Festival (tel. 503/778-5917; www.oregonbrewfest.com) takes place at Portland's Tom McCall Waterfront Park, bringing together some 73 brewers from 14 states last year. Admission is free, but it costs $4 for the mug, and $1 for a token, which buys you a taste; four tokens give you a full mug. There isn't any judging; rather, it's a celebration of 72 different breweries from across the nation (usually representing about 15 states) who concentrates on craft beer. A special extra brew, Collaborator, is created by the members of the Oregon Brew Club (they're homebrewers) and brewed by Widmer Bros. Brewing Company.
However, the event extends beyond just beer, with food and craft vendors and a root beer garden; designated drivers and minors can receive complimentary root beer floats courtesy of Crater Lake Root Beer. The list of participating brewers won't be available until March. The festival itself usually attracts about 60,000 people and is a culmination of a month of beer-related events in the state. For the latest in deals for accommodations, the tourism portal for Portland should assist you ably (tel. 800/962-3700; www.travelportland.com/deals)
In October, head to Denver, Colorado for the 27th annual Great American Beer Festival, (tel. 888/222-6273; www.beertown.org/events/gabf/) held October 9-11 at the Colorado Convention Center and staged by the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade and education association for American craft brewers, home brewers and beer enthusiasts. This past year's festival featured nearly 3,000 beers judged by more than 100 experts who awarded 222 medals in 75 beer styles. While that is a lot of numbers, it gives you the sense of the scope of the event, which is the biggest and arguably one of the most prestigious if not the most prestigious. This is a festival for serious beer people -- those in the industry, and those with a serious interest.
It's too soon to get all the information from the Brewers Association especially when it comes to confirmed brewers and what seminars will take place in the beer and food pavilion, but we're asured it will "definitely have the same number of beers," as last year, according to Cindy Jones, sales and marketing director for the Brewers Association. In terms of admission, you can buy a ticket to each session (held Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, in addition to Saturday afternoon), or you can buy an all-session pass, which admits you to all four at a discounted rate. If you purchase ticket to the Saturday afternoon session you will also receive a one-year U.S. membership to the American Homebrewers Association and access to the GABF Medal ceremony and watch the winners receive their awards. Ticket prices for reach of the three evening sessions will typically include a program, a special commemorative cup, unlimited one-ounce samples and a map to guide you. Prices last year ranged from $45-$75 in advance, with about $20 in savings for those who purchased an all-session pass for $190. For suggestions on accommodations and activities to do (other than drink beer), investigate the official site for the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau (tel. 800/233-6837; www.denver.org)
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