Not long ago, true beer lovers had to be willing to travel far and wide to sample the world’s best brews, but now that beer has become a phenomenon, with craft and micro-breweries popping up in every city from coast to coast, most beer enthusiasts barely have to leave their neighbourhoods for outstanding pints.
However, another effect of the worldwide beer craze is an overabundance of festivals celebrating the beloved beverage. Fortunately, North Americans need not travel far for a taste of the latest and greatest ales and lagers on the continent. Here are the top seven beer festivals in the New World.
1. Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine Festival (January)
Though it may not seem like dark, cold January is the best time to visit Alaska, the annual Beer and Barleywine Festival held in Anchorage certainly does make the north’s bleak winters much more inviting. Inarguably the most exciting event of Alaska Beer Week, the weekend-long Beer and Barleywine festival features heavy, filling brews, many of which are locally crafted and hard to find in the lower 48. Tickets to this festival run about $45 per person and grant visitors access to more than a hundred different varieties of brew.
2. Mondial de la Bière (June)
Most foodies are already abundantly aware that Montreal has long been a culinary paradise, but now beer aficionados are beginning to realize the bevy of brilliant brews available in French Canada. Mondial de la Biere is the largest beer festival in Canada and rivals a handful of U.S. events for variety and popularity. Plus, late spring and early summer is the best time of year to visit the region, when the dense snows have melted and the landscape is in bloom. Admission is free, but to taste beers, visitors must purchase $1 vouchers.
3. Niagara Craft Beer Festival (August)
Southern Ontario is perhaps the most fertile region in all of Canada, and as a result, craft brewers in Niagara have access to the freshest ingredients to make the tastiest brews. The Niagara Craft Beer Festival may not be as old as other brew celebrations on this list, but it still warrants a place for the quality of the creations on offer. The weekend-long festival offers different ticket prices and events per day; Saturday, which offers the most thrilling events, costs $20 per person, while Sunday costs $10 per person.
4. Great Canadian Beer Fest (September)
Every September in stunning Victoria, British Columbia, brewers of all shapes and sizes congregate in a massive outdoor field to pour samples of their best and newest creations. The Great Canadian Beer Festival may not be the biggest event on the continent, but it is perhaps the most beautiful and well-organized, which makes the experience fondly memorable for everyone. Tickets to the Great Canadian Beer Fest are $40 per person, per day, and visitors should expect to pay an additional $1.50 each for sampling tokens.
5. Great American Beer Festival (September)
Denver, one of the nation’s most creative craft brew cities, hosts the annual Great American Beer Festival, which is the United States’ answer to Germany’s age-old Oktoberfest. The festivals usually occur around the same time and offer the same thrills: delicious beer, live music, and a rollicking good time. The Great American Beer Festival continues to grow in reputation, which means more and more brewers peddle their fare every year. Tickets to this year’s celebration cost $80 per person per day, but designated drivers get a sizeable discount for their generosity and benevolence.
6. Festival of Barrel-Aged Beer (November)
Not all beer is created equal, and some connoisseurs would never deign to sip a brew that hasn’t paid its dues in a wooden barrel. For them, the Festival of Barrel-Aged Beer (FOBAB) in Chicago is perfect. This event offers more than 300 barrel-aged beers, many of which are incredibly rare. Additionally, every year FOBAB levies a challenge to barrel-aging brewers everywhere to craft a unique beer with only the barrel given as variety. Admission to FOBAB costs $55 and includes 15 tastings.
7. Holiday Ale Festival (December)
Portland, Oregon, perhaps the hottest destination for craft brewers and other creative types, is home to the last big beer celebration of the year: the Holiday Ale Festival. Featuring primarily big-name West Coast breweries and a handful of local favorites, the festival aims to reward beer lovers with an early holiday present they are sure to enjoy. Visitors can enter and explore the festival at no cost, but to taste the ales on offer, a $35 tasting package is available.
Have you heard of any of these festivals? Would you like to check any out?