The sad truth is that most beer festivals have outlived their usefulness. Before craft beer was so widely available, these gatherings offered drinkers a rare chance to try interesting new beers that they couldn't get in their area. This is now a problem that rarely needs solving. Bars with dozens of taplines are proliferating in every city and beer distributors and bottle shops offering hundreds of beers are sprouting up everywhere. Suddenly the idea of plunking down $75 to compete in a four-hour race to drink the same beers we can find in our local pub doesn't hold the same appeal.
Fortunately there are still a few festivals that are still worth our time and money. By focusing on interesting locales, new and rare beers, and an overall great experience you can still have a great time at beer festivals.
The Nearest City's Craft Beer Week
In 2008 beer writer Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell, Tom Peters, and Bruce Nichols, a caterer and organizer of beer dinners, launched the first annual Philly Beer Week. The festival used the entire city of Philadelphia as its canvas in an effort to showcase the region's beer scene to a new audience. The idea was simple. Over the course of a week, they scattered a variety of different beer related events at restaurants and bars throughout the city. All the events were marketed under a unified umbrella and the effort increased the visibility of all the participating establishments. In the intervening years the festival has only grown in size.
The Philly Beer Week has also spawned imitators in hundreds of cities across the country and a few abroad as well. Nearly every major American city now has a beer week. With the number of breweries in the country eclipsing 2,700, and growing ever larger, these regional events are a great way for drinkers to find out what makes the beer in their pocket of the country so great. Not every beer week is as comprehensive as the Philly week, but they're usually great at any size. Typical beer week events include beer and food pairing dinners at high-end restaurants, tap takeovers at local bars, and rare beer festivals organized by the local brewer's guild. Dates vary by city so do some Googling and don't miss out.
Credit: Scott Anderson / Journal Times / AP