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It’s hard to believe that soon, the smell of fall will be in the air — as well as the aromas of hops and malt, as the beer festival season arrives in full swing. For all you ale, lager, pilsner and stout enthusiasts, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele pours forth on the best beer festivals to knock back this autumn.
Why visit a beer festival?
You might have just had your own private beer festival at home or at your favorite bar, so why travel for some suds? First, you will be able sample an amazing variety of brews, as the beer world is now comprised of thousands of craft breweries that don’t necessarily sell their products outside of their home region. In addition, beer festivals are places where brewers debut hard to find small batches and where awards are handed out for the best beers among dozens of your favorite categories. And finally, beer festivals can be about far more than just beer, they tend to showcase the music, food and culture of the host city.
When purchasing beer festival tickets
Note that credit card processors may code beer festival tickets them as either dining or entertainment which can help you to earn additional rewards. Before purchasing tickets over the phone, consult with festival organizers to find out. If it’s dining, consider cards that offer a bonus for this category, such as the the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Chase United Explorer Business Card or the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa. Of course, Citi ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Premier and Citi Prestige offer bonuses for both dining and entertainment, so these cards would be your safest bet when purchasing beer festival tickets.
The Belgian Beer Weekend — September 4-6
Hosted by Knighthood of the Brewers’ Mashstaff and the Belgian Brewers, along with the City of Brussels and the Brussels-Capital Region, the Belgian Beer Weekend highlights the rich Belgian brewing tradition and features craft beers from breweries of all sizes. These beers can be consumed in a lounge along with jazz and brass bands, as well as during parades and even children’s activities. Admission is free and beer is purchased individually using crowncorks (bottle caps) that cost €1 (about $1) each; presumably, each beer requires multiple crowncorks. For a couple suggestions on where to stay, check out our reviews of the The Hotel Stanhope Brussels and The Dominican Brussels.
Brewgrass Festival — September 19
Asheville, North Carolina
Held at Memorial Stadium in Asheville, North Carolina, the Brewgrass Festival is a combination of beer, bluegrass music and the Appalachian Mountains. Featured acts this year include The Jeff Austin Band, Big Daddy Love, and The Packway Handle Band, to which you can tap your toes while sipping on beers from over 50 craft breweries. General admission tickets are $55 — and at this writing, are still available.
Munich Oktoberfest — September 19-October 4
You can’t really talk about fall beer festivals without mentioning Munich’s Oktoberfest, which dates back to the early 1800s, and now hosts over six million visitors each year. Beer is drunk in over a dozen beer tents by the liter (about 10 Euro each), while being accompanied by Bavarian music and pretzels. In addition, there is no shortage of costumes, concerts, ceremonies, and carnival attractions to keep everyone entertained. In fact, Oktoberfest even offers family days and tours for preschool children, which might be unthinkable at a beer festival in the United States. There is no entrance fee, although some beer tents may require reservations as they fill up early. For more information about Munich, read TPG’s Destination Of The Week: Munich.
Great American Beer Festival — September 24-26
This festival began in Denver in 1982 and has since evolved into nothing less than the Super Bowl of beer. It now represents the largest collection of beer ever served in a public tasting in the United States, as well as the most prestigious private competition. This only makes sense as Colorado is known as the hub of the craft brewing industry, and even its governor was a renowned brewer before entering politics. In fact, the Great American Beer Festival has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records that there is no other place in the world that you can find more beers on tap, more than 3,500. Tickets will go on sale for $80 on Friday July 31st and will sell out very quickly.
Of special interest is the Paired event that brings craft brewers together with chefs from top restaurants. The event is held at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver, adjacent to plenty of hotels, public transportation, and additional nightlife. For more about visiting Denver, check out my Destination of the Week: Denver post or TPG Contributor Katie Hammel’s Layover Lowdown: Denver International Airport.
Fresh Hop Ale Festival — October 3
Washington state is one of the nation’s premier hop growing regions, which needless to say, is a key ingredient in the brewing of beer. The Fresh Hop Ale Festival requires that beer be brewed within 24 hours of the hops being harvested. Local wine and food is also featured, as well as a cigar tent. General admission tickets start at $35 and include 3 free half pints. Yakima is within three hours drive from either the Seattle or Portland airports.
World Beer Festival — October 10
Durham, North Carolina
Held at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown Durham, The World Beer Festival includes three events: The North Carolina Beer Festival highlighting more than 130 breweries; the Cask Ale Festival featuring infused cask-conditioned beers from local brewers; and the Cider Garden showcasing today’s cider makers with their variety of ingredients and techniques. General admission tickets are $45 which include unlimited tastings. While there, check out the famous 42 Street Oyster Bar, with locations downtown and at the airport, the latter of which made our list of the 10 best airport restaurants.
Cape Town Festival of Beer — November 27-29
Cape Town, South Africa
The largest brewery event in the southern hemisphere, The Cape Town Festival of Beer featured over 60 breweries and more than 200 beers in 2014. Accompanying events include local food, live music, and big screen televisions to watch rugby. This is one of many great excuses to visit Cape Town, which is one of TPG’s favorite destinations — and mine, as well. Admission is 150 Rand, or just under $13 USD.