Which US beer festivals should I attend?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Nickdwe, Oct 8, 2019.

  1. Nickdwe

    Nickdwe Initiate (32) Apr 23, 2016 United Kingdom (England)

    Hi Guys,

    So I'm nearing that age now where my wife is on at me about having kids (tbf I'm 35 so I'm well overdue and have had a good run!) and whilst I realise that's not the end of life, it does mean that my random "beer tourist" type holidays will have to stop. I've managed to get to most states/breweries (From the UK) that I wanted to over the last few years but what I've never done is a US festival.

    It's on my bucket list to do one next year, the obvious choice is GABF. My question is though would it be worth the trip? I realise there may be better festivals in terms of crowds, attending breweries, value for money etc but are any of them worth making that once in a lifetime type trip to a US festival when compared with GABF.

    I would combine the festival with an extended trip in the state if that makes the trip seem more worth it, I've never been to Colorado before (where as I've already done CA, a fair bit of New England (VT, MA, ME etc), Chicago, New York..)

    I goto Mikkeller Beer Celebration in Copenhagen every year, how does GABF compare to a festival like that?
  2. JayWhitson

    JayWhitson Champion (870) Feb 25, 2015 Montana
    Society Trader

    The actual festival at GABF is the adult equivalent of winning the Toys ‘r Us shopping spree. The city and surrounding suburbs have many releases and tap take overs the entire week. I highly recommend going at least once in any craft beer afficianado’s lifetime.
  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,150) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    If you want the 'feeling' of being a kid in a candy store than the GABF is the 'it' event.

    If you are looking for a differing experience than perhaps some other beer festival may be more to our liking. For example, every year I attend the following local (Philadelphia) beer festivals:
    • Yards Real Ale Invitational
    • The German Society of Pennsylvania Bierfest
    These events are enticing for me since I enjoy drinking cask ales (the Yards event) and German style beers (the German society event). I doubt that either of these events would be what you seek but perhaps other BAs can provide examples of the beer festivals that are favorites to them.

    Shanex likes this.
  4. Domingo

    Domingo Poo-Bah (2,618) Apr 23, 2005 Colorado

    I feel like the hype around GABF is justified. There was a period of time when the fest had devolved into a mess, but it has rebounded in the last 5 years. Things like the lines, ticketing process, and festival logistics are well run. Especially considering the number of people and beers there.

    At the same time, it's still just a boatload of tiny pours. If you're looking to actually drink beers, it's not really the best fest for that. There ARE plenty of ancillary events that can cover that base during the week of GABF, though.
  5. Nickdwe

    Nickdwe Initiate (32) Apr 23, 2016 United Kingdom (England)

    Cheers for the advice so far. Probably leaning towards gabf, arriving around at least a week before to see some of the state and take in the various beer events.

    Anyone know of any restrictions on buying tickets outside the US? Had a look in the FAQs but couldn’t see it mentioned.

    I’d probably do two sessions, maybe Thursday and one other. I’d prefer a more (relatively) relaxed atmosphere and I’ve read the Sat night can be pretty wild. Saturday day would be ideal but I think that’s only open to AHA members? Which I’m assuming someone outside the US can’t be a member of.
  6. JayWhitson

    JayWhitson Champion (870) Feb 25, 2015 Montana
    Society Trader

    International option for AHA membership
  7. Sheppard

    Sheppard Meyvn (1,059) Mar 16, 2013 Virginia

    From everything I've heard from friends in the industry, the benefit of GABF is being able to go to all of the tap takeovers around Denver that allow you to try beers from all over the country. This is the case when there is a big beer festival anywhere though. DC has a bunch of tap takeovers this year because of Snallygaster this week. Boston gets a bunch of beers during EBF. GABF just seems the most extreme example of this, no offense, BA.
  8. Overlord

    Overlord Poo-Bah (1,975) Jun 28, 2007 California

    I've never been to a large-scale beer event I found worth writing home about in regards to the BEER (the socializing was often fantastic).

    Of the somewhat smaller events, Stone Sour Fest is a can't miss. Not only are sours delicious (most flavor molecules per oz. of any beer type), but afterwards you can feel a "sense of pride and accomplishment" about surviving the scorching, death valley-esque temperatures generated by Stone's heat-focusing, bowl-shaped garden.
  9. Beerbadger55

    Beerbadger55 Aspirant (261) Aug 29, 2017 Wisconsin

    The Great Taste of the Midwest is a really good beer festival - second weekend of August in Madison WI. Limited to 5000 attendees and a lot of great beers to try.
  10. Gkruszewski

    Gkruszewski Poo-Bah (1,830) Nov 1, 2013 New York
    Society Trader

    Two easy ones for me....EBF in Boston and GREEN CITY in Brooklyn .....
  11. ArsMoriendiOU818

    ArsMoriendiOU818 Zealot (537) Nov 5, 2013 California

    I attended Huna Day in 2016 and loved it. I'm not aware of a US beer fest where you can try as many rare and/or extremely sought after beers (for better or worse), nor as many very-highly-rated beers in one place. Plus, St. Pete/Tampa is pretty neat and there are a lot of beer events throughout the week at the local breweries. Looks like it'd also be a new region of the US for you, so seems like a win-win to me.
    DoctorZombies likes this.
  12. Sound_Explorer

    Sound_Explorer Poo-Bah (1,706) Dec 29, 2013 Washington

    If you appreciate fresh hop beers, this past weekend was Yakima, Washington Fresh hop festival. It is usually that time of year each year. It isn't too big thankfully but is alll tasty since the fields are just a couple miles out of town essentially. Plus, great beer in town before and after the event too.

    The other is Washington Brewer's Fest, on Father's Day weekend (mid June). It is held just east of Seattle at Marymoor Park. Friday's are 21+ while Saturday and Sunday kids are able to attend in the family area away from the beer and wine. Biggest fest we have in the Evergreen State and the weather is 9/10 usually pretty good by that time (warm but not hot). Rather inexpensive for what you get, plenty of places to stay and you can visit Seattle breweries too like the Ballard district.

    GABF is big and crazy. Got to go once a couple years ago now and while I enjoyed it, it was a lot to take in. Actually just talked to a brewer from Las Vegas that had come back and he said the week leading up to GABF is beer week in Denver and there are a lot of things going on outside the fest too. Tickets to GABF are crazy expensive after the bots buy them all up and resale at other websites. It sells out FAST! So prepare to stay on top of the ticket release info (think that is around July or so usually) and click fast.

    Have fun wherever you go though!
  13. Sparty93

    Sparty93 Initiate (54) Aug 29, 2013 Michigan

    FOBAB (Festival of Barrel Aged Beers) in Chicago every November is my favorite. It's a bit specialized with only barrel/wood aged beers, but the selection is excellent if it's your thing. They've also started having a 2nd area dedicated to ciders/sours/etc, beyond all the more obvious styles like stouts and whatnot. It's held on the University of Illinois Chicago campus downtown, so all of Chicago is within easy reach. They hold it in early November each year and GI always has a big booth to try the Bourbon County variants before the Black Friday release - it's pretty cool to walk in and grab pours of Prop two weeks before release.
    ktr5010, dukeandduke and joberlander like this.
  14. DoctorZombies

    DoctorZombies Poo-Bah (3,094) Feb 1, 2015 Florida
    Society Trader

    Google Tampa Bay Beer Week. A week long orgy of beer at multiple venues. Cheers!
  15. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,310) Sep 24, 2007 Vatican City

    Both Hood River and Yakima have Fresh Hop festivals, on consecutive weekends. Fly into PDX, hit some breweries, and go to HR. Then, head Down to Bend for a couple days.

    After that, a couple days in Seattle, hit the Yakima fest, fly home from SEA.
    SFACRKnight likes this.
  16. ovaltine

    ovaltine Poo-Bah (2,722) Apr 6, 2010 Indiana
    Society Trader

    Go to Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds in Munster, IN (just outside of Chicago). It’s held in May, tix available in March. You have to purchase them online, and it’s not a given you’ll be able to do so, but it’s worth the effort.

    The bottle share ..... is indescribable. Truly and absolutely indescribable.
    marchoftheclouds likes this.
  17. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Meyvn (1,349) Jan 20, 2012 Colorado

    Rare beer fest happens during GABF and has one of the most well curated beer lists I have ever seen. It is feasible to do both rare beer and GABF in the same trip and really get an amazing experience.
  18. jjboesen

    jjboesen Meyvn (1,222) Feb 1, 2002 Maryland

    I have two suggestions:
    1. Oregon Beer Fest - Takes place in the last week of July, in Portland (Oregon), a great city in itself. The festival lasts five days (Wed-Sun), allowing you to participate on weekdays, when the attendance is manageable - and still giving plenty of time to visit the city's great beery wonders.

    2. Mondiale du Biere - Held in Montreal sometime in June; like OBF, it runs from Wednesday to Sunday, making it manageable as for crowds (which GABF certainly has.) Montreal is a beautiful city that offers much.

    Or, you can do what I plan to do next month and go to San Diego and make your own beer festival.
  19. Brookeball

    Brookeball Initiate (45) Jan 1, 2019 Mississippi

    I would highly recommend GABF. We did the PAIRED tickets which were a little more pricey (but includes general admission as well) the food was excellent and this included a list of beers not served in the main sessions. These are “small plates” paired with beer, so if tiny plates of food make you angry maybe don’t do this, but we enjoyed it! Yes to going on earlier days to beat the crowds and avoid big lines for tasters. There are so many beers we wish we would have done multiple sessions. As others said, their are plenty of bars and breweries in the Denver area to take advantage of while you’re there! If you have a few extra days and like to get outside, Rocky Mountain National Park is about 70 miles from Denver. Great views and hikes perfect for unwinding and having another beer.
    I’ve not been to Oregon Beer Fest myself but it’s on my to-do list and Portland is great if that one is on your radar!
    SFACRKnight likes this.
  20. spersichilli

    spersichilli Initiate (109) Apr 26, 2018 Florida

    Huna day is dope but I’d say Wakefest from J Wakefield in Miami is on par beer wise. The cool thing about huna day is it wraps into all the other Tampa bay beer week events. My “must hits”:

    Hunahpu day
    Festival of Barrel Aged Beers
    Dark Lord Day
    Firestone Walker Invitational
  21. RochefortChris

    RochefortChris Meyvn (1,422) Oct 2, 2012 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    A true 'once in life time' beer festival is Just Brew It in Asheville, NC. It's all homebrew so it is beer you will never have again. Don't let the idea of homebrew scare you off, I have been going for the last six years and brewing for it the last four, and all the brewers know what they're doing. It's understandable that you probably wouldn't fly to the US for a homebrew festival but if by chance you're ever in the area when it's happening then Just Brew It is definitely worth the experience
    imtroy703 likes this.