Pack your bags and try one of these festivals in Canada and the U.S.
Photo courtesy Oregon Beer Festival
Since 1810, when the first, biggest, and most imitated festival – Munich’s Oktoberfest began, beer festivals have been held the world over. However, it has only been the last 35 years or so, since the birth of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in England and the rebirth of the craft brewery in North America, that the beer festivals we know today emerged. It is next to impossible to quantify how many beer festivals there are world-wide, as there are new ones popping up constantly, but it is safe to say there are thousands of them.
So what is a beer festival? Simply put, it is a one-to several day-beer tasting event which has multiple breweries pouring a selection of beers to the general public. There may also be special beers, beers brewed just for the festival, and/or new releases. Ancillary events such as judging, seminars, food pairings, dinners, etc. may be included as well. The advantage that beer festivals have over wine festivals is that they can take place any time of the year, and in almost any location imaginable.
Here are a selection of events in Canada and the western United States within driving distance or a quick flight away, this spring through the fall.
The 4th Annual Great Vegas Festival of Beer
April 26, 2014. Las Vegas, Nevada
Throughout the streets, lots, and local establishments of the Fremont East Entertainment District of downtown Las Vegas, there will be brewers from all over the world pouring more than 250 brews including one-off production beers, special releases, and festival exclusives. There are also talks, tours, games and much more.
Calgary International Beerfest
May 2-3, 2014
Celebrating its tenth year, this little festival has grown to one of the biggest in Canada, and it’s growing again this year, adding another 50,000 square feet of exhibit space at the BMO Centre. The exhibit hall is open seven hours on Friday and eight hours on Saturday. Expect to find over 500 beers and ciders from more than 150 producers, as well as delicious foods from local restaurants, seminars and entertainment. There will also be beer dinners and other events around Calgary in the days surrounding Beerfest.
Seattle Beer Week
May 8-18, 2014
In the past few years, great beer cities have started “beer weeks”, essentially a week-long celebration of suds. As a city with over 30 breweries, Seattle certainly qualifies, and there are over 200 tasting events happening throughout the 11 day “week”.
Vancouver Craft Beer Week
May 30-June 7, 2014
Vancouver is the capital of western Canada’s craft brewery scene, with more than a couple of dozen breweries. This is the fifth year for the VCBW’s “nine-day celebration of fermentation”. With more than 60 breweries participating in over 30 venues during the nine days, this is for the true lover of craft beer.
Mondiel de la Biere
June 11-15, 2014. Montreal, Quebec
Quebec has one of Canada’s strongest craft beer scenes, with over 20 breweries and brewpubs in Montreal alone. At 21 years old, this festival is one of Canada’s oldest and the biggest. Last year, more than 100,000 people sampled over 600 beers, meads, ciders and other products. Admission to the festival is free, with tasting coupons costing $1.00 each. There are also seminars, tastings, workshops and a host of other events over the five days.
CamRA Fundraiser Beer Festival
Calgary’s best little summer beer festival. A fundraiser for Calgary Health Trust, expect to see more cool beers and cask conditioned ales than any other festival in Alberta. Exact date and location will be announced soon.
Edmonton Craft Beer Festival 2014
June 6-7, 2014
Put on by the same people who bring you the Calgary International Beerfest, this festival is in its second year. This festival features many of the same breweries that are in the Calgary show, but with food supplied by local Edmonton area restaurants.
East Kootenay Beer Festival
June 13-14, 2014
The 3rd Annual East Kootenay Beer Festival takes place on Mountainside Golf Course at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. In addition to beer, there is live music, great food, and the option of staying in the Mountain Lodge or camping nearby.
Ontario Craft Beer Week
June 15-21, 2014
As a province-wide celebration of craft beer, the fifth annual Ontario Craft Beer Week is hosted by over 35 Ontario Craft Brewers, with events held on-site at breweries, pubs, restaurants, and other venues in more than 40 cities and towns throughout the province. Last year there were greater than 200 menu pairings and more than 200 other events.
Oregon Beer Festival
July 23-27, 2014. Portland, Oregon
Held at Waterfront Park along the Willamette River, this is one of the oldest and largest outdoor American beer festivals, celebrating its 27th year. With around 40 breweries in the Portland area and barley and hop fields only a stone’s throw away, this is one of the western USA’s must attend festivals.
Toronto’s Festival of Beer
July 25-27, 2014
In Canada’s largest city there are over two dozen breweries, so it is not surprising that this is one of the country’s biggest outdoor festivals. Over 30,000 people sample more than 100 mostly local beers, while enjoying live music and southern BBQ.
August 22-24, 2014
This three-day outdoor event held at the foot of the Space Needle features over 200 rare and exotic beers from 16 countries. Beer costs are different for all beers, allowing consumers to try otherwise expensive beers for a fraction of their real cost.
Great Canadian Beer Festival
September 5-6, 2014. Victoria, B.C.
Vancouver Island has a strong craft beer scene, with around a dozen breweries. This two-day outdoor event features about 250 beers and ciders from over 60 breweries from across Canada and the northwest United States.
Great American Beer Festival
October 2-4, 2014. Denver, Colorado
In its 33rd year, the GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world, with 2800 beers from over 600 American breweries. While the 50,000 attendees get unlimited one-ounce samples for their entrance ticket, needless to say, one can barely make a dent….
October 10-18, 2014
The largest Bavarian celebration outside Germany began in 1969 and attracts almost one million people donning lederhosen and dirndl, sampling bier and bratwurst at the five festhallen. There are over 40 other happenings taking place throughout the festival, including family, cultural and sporting events.
San Diego Beer Week
November 7-16, 2014
With more than 50 breweries in San Diego County, there is a beer festival every week here. However, the San Diego Brewers Guild has held this ten-day festival for the last three years as a way to promote the local craft beer culture. Thanks to the area’s almost perfect weather, many of the hundreds of events not held at the breweries are held outdoors.