While no one knows for certain what the year will bring, beer enthusiasts are eagerly anticipating more openings and events. While beer celebrations may never be the same as they were before the pandemic, a safe return to these traditions would certainly be a welcome sight. Whether beer travel is currently on the agenda or off in the horizon, these events only happen once a year, so be sure to add them to your calendar.
Pliny the Younger Release, March 25–April 7 (Santa Rosa & Windsor, Calif.)
Beer enthusiasts have made a tradition of descending on Russian River Brewing Company each year for the release of Pliny the Younger ever since head brewer and co-owner Vinnie Cilurzo first tapped it. The beer, a triple IPA weighing in at 10.25% ABV, is celebrated throughout the beer world for its huge malt and hop presence. Tasting is believing when it comes to Pliny the Younger, and many repeat the pilgrimage to Sonoma County year after year.
SAVOR, June 24 (Washington, D.C.)
The Brewers Association’s upscale event features a wide assortment of craft beers paired with small plates to dazzle the palate. SAVOR showcases 100 craft breweries from around the United States, with Brewers Association Chef Adam Dulye assembling a culinary team to mastermind pairings for enthusiasts to muse over for the evening. Unlike festivals where the star of the show is beer, SAVOR showcases the magic and versatility of beer when thoughtfully paired with food.
Barrel & Flow Festival, August 13 (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
The Barrel & Flow Festival bills itself as “Black Arts on Tap” and aims to “continue to utilize the brewing industry to connect opportunity, accessibility, and artistry in ways that empower the Black community.” Barrel & Flow started off as a festival celebrating Black-owned breweries and has morphed into an event that melds music, visual art, and culinary arts. The result is a festival that is a “story of celebration, collaboration, and community.”
Great Taste of the Midwest, August 13 (Madison, Wis.)
Organized by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild, Great Taste of the Midwest assembles some of the best breweries in the American Midwest to pour their beer in one spot. 2020’s event saw 190 breweries and brewpubs pour more than 1,400 beers for attendees. Vintage beers, special releases, and stalwart core lineups will be on tap from 2nd Shift Brewing to Working Draft Brewing and 188 breweries in between.
Great American Beer Festival, October 6–8 (Denver, Colo.)
2022 marks the 40th anniversary of this landmark beer festival, so it’s a great opportunity to attend for the first (or next) time! With brewers flying in from around the country to share their latest creations with eager beer enthusiasts, the entire city of Denver and surrounding areas join in the fun to entertain guests attending the granddaddy of American craft beer festivals. Beer events, tappings, meet the brewer appearances, tap spotlights, bottle drops, and surprise events all take place during a few bustling days when the festival is in town.
Jester King’s SPON Day, TBA (Austin, Texas)
SPON Day is when Austin’s Jester King Brewery releases its three-year blend of spontaneously fermented beer and celebrates other favorite spontaneously fermented beers and wines. SPON Day 2021 featured a Barrel Room tour, special events with featured spontaneous beers, and panel talks about these uncommon styles of beer all set against the backdrop of Jester King’s Texas Hill Country brewery. SPON Day is accessible for enthusiasts who want to grab bottles to go as well as those who want to stay a while and hear talks, have a meal, or simply enjoy SPON in its natural setting.
Yazoo Brewing’s Funk Fest, TBA (Nashville, Tenn.)
Funk Fest founder Brandon Jones prides himself on an unconventional and all-inclusive beer festival, and Funk Fest is one of a kind. After attending many “lemonade-stand”-type festivals, Jones wanted to create an event that utilizes an entire festival ground and does not have a set schedule and pouring list. What this leads to is an intimate event with food and beer pairings, inspired brewers of sour, wild, and spontaneously fermented beers, and lots of surprises for attendees. Imagine Jones sitting on the back of a truck pouring beer from Brasserie Cantillon, Jester King founder Jeffrey Stuffings sharing a sought-after sour beer in Yazoo’s warehouse, or Side Project unveiling its limited sour beers when the spirit moves. Jones feels that this format rewards curiosity and doesn’t limit festivalgoers to doing laps or standing in long lines to find one particular beer.
Dark Lord Day, TBA (Munster, Ind.)
One of the first limited-release beer festivals in the United States, Dark Lord Day celebrates Three Floyds Brewing’s massive imperial stout that previously was only available one day each year. In order to try it, beer enthusiasts had to go to the event or know someone who went. As the event grew, so too did the beers and expectations. Three Floyds began releasing barrel-aged variants of Dark Lord and then versions of the beer with adjuncts like vanilla beans, cinnamon, espresso, and cacao nibs. While COVID forced Dark Lord Day into an online ordering and curbside pickup format, beer enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the return of the festive event, or at least picking up an allotment of the coveted Dark Lord.
Festival of Wood- & Barrel-aged Beer, TBA (Chicago, Ill.)
Hosted by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, FOBAB is the festival for lovers of spirit barrel-aged beers. FOBAB’s beer list combines strong ales aged in spirit barrels with wild beers, Brettanomyces beers, and wild/mixed fermentation beers. Set against the backdrop of the Windy City in November, FOBAB sees some of the country’s most avant-garde brewers tapping some of their most experimental beers. Since 2003, FOBAB has delighted beer lovers with an evening of all wood- and barrel-aged offerings, growing in 2021 when more than 160 breweries from across the United States poured their liquid art for attendees.
Brasserie Cantillon’s Zwanze Day, TBA (locations throughout the U.S.)
One of Belgium’s finest producers of fruit lambic, Brasserie Cantillon used to release bottles of a limited beer called Zwanze each year on a specific day. When Cantillon owner Jean Van Roy discovered bottles of Zwanze being sold for outlandish prices on the secondary market, he transitioned Zwanze Day to a worldwide event and limited the beer to kegs tapped on one day around the world. Since lambic is a coveted style of sour beer, most host breweries and beer bars take this day as one to celebrate all manner of sours. The list of host breweries changes each year, so every Zwanze Day is unique.
Beer Weeks (around the U.S.)
There are so many beer weeks taking place across the country it would be impossible to name them all, but these events are the best way to get to know local and regional breweries and sample the best of their beers. From larger events like Philly Beer Week, San Francisco Beer Week, and Tampa Bay Beer Week, beer weeks have popped up all over the country with one aim: to promote the local beer community. Check to see if your local brewery is promoting American Craft Beer Week (May 16–22), an annual springtime salute to local beer and breweries.
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