Best brew fests
Quaff to your heart's content at these tasting parties.
© Milwaukee Brewfest
Revelers toast the Milwaukee Brewfest in July.
At last, Americans are realizing that life is too short to drink cheap beer.
The tasteless factory lagers of our youth look awfully pathetic next to the beers now being turned out by craft brewers: sweet cream stouts, lip-smacking India pale ales, chocolatey porters, Belgian wheats flavored by coriander and orange.
In fact, it's getting hard to keep up with all the new brews, some of them wildly creative. That's where brew festivals come in.
"You'd be amazed at how many people have been introduced to good-tasting beer at these festivals,'' said Bonita Rowland of Rowland's Brewing Co. in Chilton, Wis., which has been hosting the Wisconsin Micro-Brewers Fest for more than 20 years.
Most festivals sell out, sometimes almost immediately. VIP tickets, which offer perks, are limited and usually sell out
The largest festival, Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, is in August, and tickets sell out as soon as they go on sale, the first Sunday of May.
So if you want to go to a beer festival, plan ahead.
If you want to really wallow in beer, keep your calendar open for spring. That's when Beer Weeks are held
in Milwaukee (April 13-20), Madison (May 3-12), Minnesota (May
13-19) and Chicago (May 16-26).
The "mother of all beer weeks'' is the American Craft Beer Week, May 13-19.
For tips about going to a beer festival, see Quaffing with a crowd.
For a beer-lover's tour of Milwaukee, see Mad about brew.
For a beer-lover's tour of southern Wisconsin, see Road trip: Breweries of southern
For more about touring Twin Cities breweries, see True brew in the Twin Cities.
Here are some of the best beer festivals in 2013.
Nearly all offer food and music in addition to beer. Designated drivers get in at a reduced rate, sometimes as little as $5
or even free. Be sure to bring a photo I.D.
Jan. 19, Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest in Madison. Wisconsin's best beer and cheese makers supply the treats for an afternoon at Alliant Energy Center, $40.
Jan. 19, Craft Beer Expo in Mankato, Minn. This first-time festival
features seminars, food, live music and tastings from more than 40 craft breweries. Tickets are $30.
© Beth Gauper
Veterans of beer fests arrive with necklaces made of pretzels and, sometimes, cheese sticks and sausage.
Jan. 26, The Beer Dabbler in St. Paul, part of Winter Carnival. This outdoor fest in Mears Park includes beers from more than 70 breweries, live music, fireworks and a costume contest. Tickets are $40, $30 in advance.
Feb. 1, Minnesota Craft Brewer's Guild Winterfest in St. Paul at the Minnesota History Center. Tickets go on sale at noon Dec. 1. The 700 tickets sell almost instantaneously.
Feb. 2, Brewfest in Fond du Lac, Wis. Try more than 100 Wisconsin microbrews at the County Fairgrounds Expo Center. Tickets are $30-$50.
Feb. 9, Winter
Microbrew & Music Festival in Traverse City, Mich. Samples the wares from
more than 40 breweries in heated tents on the lawn of Grand Traverse Commons. There will be fire dancers, a silent disco and
bonfires in addition to music from nearly a dozen bands. Tickets are $25-$35.
Feb. 16, Food & Froth Fest in Milwaukee. Try more than 200 beers from the Midwest and beyond at this event at the Milwaukee Public Museum, which includes appetizers from local restaurants and music from local bands.
Feb. 16, Dubuque on Ice Brewfest in Dubuque, Iowa. This riverfront
festival is at Mystique Ice Center and features 30 breweries, 10 wineries, food sampling and music. Tickets are $35.
Feb. 23, Michigan Winter Brew Festival in Grand Rapids, Mich. This Michigan Brewers Guild event is held outdoors at Comstock Park. Tickets go on sale Dec. 1.
March 9, Hops & Props in Oshkosh, Wis. This fundraiser at the EAA Airventure Museum includes more than 250 brews, music and food from local restaurants. Tickets are $60.
March 23, Roar on the Shore Brewfest in Luxemburg, Wis. Try regional beers from more than 30 breweries and five wineries in this town near Lake Michigan. Tickets are $35-$40.
March 23, The Art of Beer Festival in Benton Harbor, Mich. Try beers from across the nation at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center. Tickets are $30-$35.
March 30, Chicago Beer Festival. This fest in Union Station features
spring seasonals from more than 80 breweries. Tickets are $40.
April 6, Gitchee Gumee Brewfest in Superior, Wis. The Jaycees host this fest at Wessman Arena at UW-Superior, with tastings from 28 breweries and brewpubs. Tickets are $25.
April 27, Between the Bluffs Beer, Wine and Cheese Festival in La Crosse. Beers from 20 to 25 breweries. Tickets go on sale in March. It's 2-6 p.m. at the Oktoberfest grounds.
May 11, American Beer Classic in Chicago. This first-time fest in
Soldier Field features beer from more than 80 breweries, music and seminars. Advance tickets are $55 for one of two
May 19, Wisconsin Micro-Brewers Beer Fest in Chilton, Wis., on the east side of Lake Winnebago. More than 120 beers from 30 Wisconsin craft brewers, plus Chilton's own Rowland's Brewery beers.
© Sanderson Photography
Aficionados discuss a brew at Roar on the Shore in Kewaunee, Wis.
Tickets are $35 and go on sale in March. It's 1-6 p.m. at the Calumet County Fairgrounds.
May 31-June 2, Kohler Festival of Beer in Kohler, Wis. The upscale American Club and the Inn on Woodlake in this town just west of Sheboygan host tasting parties, a home brewers contest and a Sunday blues, brews and barbecue party.
Tickets range from $30 for tastings and tapping parties to $250 for an all-weekend pass.
June 1, Beer Barons' World of Beer Festival in Menomonee Falls, Wis. Only 600 tickets are sold to this event at Schwabenhof Pavilion, which includes special tappings, talks and more than 200 U.S. and international beers, meads and ciders. Tickets are $40-$65 and go on sale Feb. 1.
June 1, City Pages Beer Festival in Minneapolis. Sample
beer from more than 30 breweries at this fest in the Hennepin Avenue theater district, also featuring mechanical bull rides
and music. Tickets are $30.
June 8, Great Northern Beer Festival in Eagle River, Wis. Beer from more than 20 breweries at the Hi-Pines Campground north of town. Tickets are $20-$25.
June 15, Door County
Beer Festival in Baileys Harbor, Wis. This festival includes more than 120 beers,
music, a home-brewing contest and seminars on beer, cheese and food. Tickets are $35-$40.
June 15, Wisconsin Beer Lovers Festival in Glendale, Wis. The event in this Milwaukee suburb, home of Sprecher Brewery, features more than 100 craft beers and food pairings from local chefs. Tickets are $35-$45.
© Beth Gauper
Millstream Brewing in Amana hosts the Festival of Iowa Beers over Labor Day weekend.
June 15, Summer Beer Fest in St. Paul. Beer from more than 70 breweries will be available at this festival in the International Bazaar area of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Tickets are $40.
June 22, Lazy River Beer & Wine Festival in McGregor, Iowa. This hybrid festival is as much about wine and music as beer, but you can't beat its location on the shores of the Mississippi River.
June 22, Brews 'n' Blues in Oshkosh, Wis. Sample
more than 100 beers from more than 30 breweries at Leach Amphitheater downtown. Tickets are $35.
July 13, All Pints North Summer Brew Fest in Duluth. This new festival in Bayfront Park, hosted by the Minnesota Craft Brewer's Guild, will have more than 100 beers to sample. Tickets are $30-$40 and go on sale April 15.
July 20, Milwaukee Firkin Craft Beer Festival in Milwaukee. This festival in Cathedral Square Park celebrates Milwaukee's beer heritage and includes 14 local breweries and brewpubs.
There's a cask-tasting tent, music and food, and guests get to vote on the best Milwaukee beer. Tickets are $40 and go on sale March 1.
July 20, Cityview
Brewfest in Des Moines. In Principal Park, sample 450 beers from 150 state,
regional and national breweries. Tickets are $25-$30.
July 20, Summer Beer Dabbler in St. Paul. Try beer from more than 50
breweries along the Mississippi in Upper Landing Park downtown. There will also be food trucks and live music. Tickets are
July 27, Milwaukee Brewfest in Milwaukee. This fest at Old Coast Guard Pavilion at McKinley Park on the lakefront features more than 250 craft beers, with a German Row and a Cider Row. There will also be music, food and arts. Tickets are $45, $40 in advance.
Aug. 3, Wheaton Ale Fest in Wheaton, Ill. The downtown festival in this west Chicago suburb features more than 100 craft beers plus food and music. Tickets are $45 and go on sale May 1.
Aug. 10, Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison. This is the largest festival in Wisconsin and the second-longest running craft beer festival in North America.
Tickets are $50 and sell out quickly; you'll need to send in a mail order for tickets postmarked May 7 or show up in person at noon May 6 at one of various vendors in Madison.
It's 1-6 p.m. in Olin-Turville Park, and brewmasters from more than 100 Midwest breweries serve samples of 500 beers.
© Milwaukee Brewfest
Milwaukee's Brewhaus Polka Kings play at Brewfest.
Aug. 17, Micro Brew Review in Oak Park, Ill. This zero-waste festival in downtown Oak Park features beer from more than 40 breweries and food pairings from local restaurants.
It's produced by Seven Generations Ahead and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild and features the Replicale project, in which more than a dozen brewers use nearly identical ingredients to brew the same style of beer.
Aug. 24, Midwest Brewers Fest in Plainfield, Ill. The festival in this
southwest Chicago suburb is in Riverfront Park on the DuPage River and features food, live music and 200 beers from more than
50 breweries. Tickets are $40.
Aug. 24, Summer Microbrew & Music Festival in Traverse City, Mich. Sample Midwest craft brews, with an emphasis on Michigan beer, on the lawn of the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
Sept. 1, Festival of Iowa Beers in Amana, Iowa. Sample craft beers at Millstream Brewing Co., Iowa's oldest microbrewery. Tickets go on sale in July.
Sept. 6-7, Hopps of Fun Beer & Wine Festival in Mackinaw City, Mich. There's more than 50 Michigan microbrews and more than 40 Michigan wines, plus food and entertainment, at Mackinaw Crossings downtown.
Sept. 7, U.P. Fall Beer Festival in Marquette, Mich. The Michigan Brewers Guild hosts this fest in Mattson Lower Harbor Park on Lake Superior, featuring 250 beers from 35 Michigan craft breweries. Tickets are $30-$35 and go on sale July 1.
Sept. 14, Great Lakes Brewfest in Racine, Wis. More than 150 craft beers from 75 breweries across the nation. In Festival Park on Lake Michigan. Tickets go on sale June 1.
At festivals, hundreds of beers are available for tasting.
Sept. 21, Egg
Harbor AleFest in Egg Harbor, Wis. The festival in this Door County town features
more than 100 craft beers, home-brewing demonstrations, food and live music. Tickets are $40.
Sept. 21, Rails & Ales Brewfest in Green Bay, Wis. The National Railroad Museum hosts this sampling of craft beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres. Tickets are $35-$45.
Sept. 21, Brew Ha Ha in Davenport, Iowa. This fest in LeClaire Park, on the banks of the Mississippi River, benefits the local PBS station and includes cheese-tasting, music and goofy games. Tickets go on sale in July.
Sept. 28, Autumn Brew Review in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild sponsors this festival at the old Grain Belt Brewery in northeast Minneapolis. Tickets go on sale July 15.
Oct. 5, Quivey's Grove Beer Fest in Madison. The festival at this restaurant on the southwest edge of town features blues music and more than 75 beers from 37 breweries. Tickets are $35.
Oct. 19, Wisconsin Dells on Tap in the Wisconsin Dells. It's part of Autumn Harvest Fest, with beer from more than 20 craft brewers served from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $30 and go on sale June 2.
Last updated on May 8, 2013
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