San Francisco Beer Week (www.sfbeerweek.org) will run February 6-15 and feature the creations of more than 100 breweries and pubs with special meet-the-brewer events, beer and food pairings, and demonstrations. The week-long event celebrates the Bay area's brewing past and present -- the region is home to 1,400 small craft breweries today -- with beer dinners and cheese and beer pairing events. Several festivals -- the Bistro Double IPA Festival (www.the-bistro.com/events.htm), Toronado Barleywine Festival (www.toronado.com) and Celebrator's Bay Area Beer Celebration (www.celebrator.com) -- take place throughout the week. Joie de Vivre, the state's largest boutique hotel company, is the official accommodations provider for beer week, and its rooms are available for $79 (www.sfbeerweek.org/hotels.html). The costs vary depending on the events -- the website contains the information you need or links you to it; there are also links to the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau website (tel. 415/391-2000; www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com), where you can book a hotel stay anywhere throughout the greater San Francisco area if Joie de Vivre's rooms are all sold out.
Philadelphia's Craft Beer Festival (tel. 631/940-7290; www.phillycraftbeerfest.com) takes place this year on March 7 at the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal and features a whole day of tastings. More than 120 beers from 50 breweries will be on tap, including local favorites such as Yards, Victory and Dogfish, along with Rogue, Stone, Ommegang, and Unibroue. The event's proceeds benefit St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. You can purchase tickets for the first session, from 12:30pm-4:30pm, or the second one, which runs 6pm-10pm. Tickets are $45 if you buy them online and $60 at the door -- if there are still some left. If you want to come but you're the designated driver it will cost $10. Food will be available for purchase during both sessions.
Additionally, Philadelphia has its Second Annual Beer Week (www.phillybeerweek.org), March 6-15, which is an overall celebration of the city's beer culture, with gastropub participants including the Belgian Café, Beneluxx Tasting Room, Eulogy, and Monk's, which will host Zythos America on March 15. There are more than 65 events planned over the course of the ten-day celebration; last year's event drew more than 15,000 people. The Philly Real Ale Invitational is March 15, Participating brewers include Dogfish Head Brewery, Flying Fish Brewing Company, Dock Street Brewing Company, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Nodding Head Brewpub, and other local microbrews including Troegs, Yards, and Victory. The Radisson Plaza-Warwick (www.phillybeerweek.org/hotels.cfm) is offering a special rate for attendees of Beer Week: $149 plus tax
Belgium is home to some of the world's greatest beer, and the Sixth Annual Zythos Bier Festival (www.zbf.be) takes place March 7-8 in Sint-Niklaas. The event is run by Belgium's top beer consumers' organization and all of the beer makers who attend the festival create the beers they sell. Expect to see the likes of Achilles, Chimay, Rochefort Westmalle, Lefebvre, and many others. Hours? 12 noon on Saturday through midnight and 11am through 9pm on Sunday. A tasting will cost about €1.20 and a tasting glass costs €3, which is refundable if you want to turn it in at the end of the festival. Zythos will feature more than 240 beers and it is easy to get to meet and get to know the 54 individual brewers who will be in attendance by wandering from tent to tent for samples and conversation. The event itself is free, so you don't need tickets to attend nor do you need to make reservations.
Montreal runs its 16th annual Mondial de Biere (tel. 514/722-8467; www.festivalmondialbiere.qc.ca) in the spring, as the weather starts to improve, and bills itself as "the most important beer festival." This past fall, it introduced a European counterpart in Strasbourg, the French beer capital. The event takes place June 3-7 in Montreal and admission is free. However, more than 350 local and imported beers will be available to sample; tasting coupons are $1 and each tasting -- which may require more than one coupon -- is about 3-4 ounces of beer. It takes place at the Windsor Station and Courtyard Downtown Marriot. Beer and food pairings are highlighted, and live music, seminars, and workshops are planned to further enlighten attendees. To find a place to stay, Tourism Montreal (www.tourisme-montreal.org).
The 22nd Annual Oregon Brewers Festival (tel. 503/778-5917; www.oregonbrewfest.com) takes place in the summer, July 23-26. Last year's event brought 70,000 people to Tom McCall Waterfront Park on the banks of the Willamette River who were able to sample 73 different craft beers from 18 states. The taps will be open from noon to 9pm on Thursday through Saturday; on Sunday, they open at noon and close at 7pm. Admission is free, but a souvenir mug, which is required for sampling the brews, costs $5. Tokens, in turn, are required for buying beer and cost $1 for a taste; a full mug costs four tokens. This year's list of brewers will be announced in March. However, the event extends beyond just beer, with food and craft vendors and live music. Designated drivers and minors can receive complimentary root beer floats courtesy of Crater Lake Root Beer in the root beer garden. For the latest in deals for accommodations, the tourism portal for Portland should assist you ably (tel. 800/962-3700; www.travelportland.com/deals).
The very large, very popular 23rd Annual Great Taste of the Midwest (www.mhtg.org) brought to you by the Madison Home Brewers Association will take place on Saturday August 8 at Olin-Turville Park in Madison, Wisconsin. Tickets don't go on sale until May 3 at noon, and you can either purchase them in advance via mail order or in person at select locations around Madison (see website for more details). Expect more than 500 different beers from more than 100 breweries from the Midwest. Ticket prices (last year's were $35) cover your sampling in a commemorative mug and will be announced in February. As the date draws closer, check the site for the Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau for accommodations and other information (tel. 800/373-6376; www.visitmadison.com) or the links and suggestions provided on the festival's website (www.mhtg.org)
In the fall, head to Denver, Colorado for the 28th annual Great American Beer Festival, (tel. 888/222-6273; www.beertown.org/events/gabf/) held September 24-26 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 sold out, and boasted 432 breweries, more than 60 exhibitors,2,600 volunteers, and over 2,000 beers. This is a festival for real beer people -- those in the industry, and those with a serious interest, homebrewing or otherwise.
Brewers, activities, and seminars are yet to be confirmed, but 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 were $50 for individual sessions, but they vary if you are a member of the Brewers Association and if you purchase a multi-session ticket. 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)
Finally, in the fall. the 16th Annual Maine Brewers Festival (www.mainebrew.com) in Portland, Maine is a nice way to end the year of beer, with music, food, and Maine craft beers. It's held November 6-7 at the Portland Expo Center. Tickets, which cost $30, went on pre-sale at the end of 2008 and will resume sales in the summertime. Last year's event attracted more than 4,000 people and featured the likes of Allagash, Shipyard, Sea Dog, Atlantic Brewing, and Gritty McDuff's, among others. Twelve tickets are valid for 4-ounce pour, and you'll receive a 6-ounce tasting glass. Rooms in Portland sell out quickly, but the Embassy Suites Hotel and La Quinta Inn and Suites have blocks of discounted rooms set aside. For more information on the area, you can check in with the Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau (tel. 207/772-4994; www.visitportland.com).
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