What comes to mind when you imagine a beer festival?
Impossibly cleavaged women in German dirndl dresses lugging around oversized and overflowing mugs of golden Bavarian ale? Men in checkered shirts and lederhosen clicking together the heels of their curly toed shoes? While the Oktoberfest tradition still carries on in some places in the United States, a new kind of celebration of the “golden nectar of the gods” is gaining popularity. One that is inhabited by men and women in a new kind of costume. Youthful figures in skinny jeans, handlebar mustaches, and retro looking t-shirts advertising places that never really existed mill about with the collectors glasses they received with the price of admission, looking for the taste of “golden nectar” that is going to be the next big thing. Small time craft brewers gleefully pour their wares, hoping to catch the attention of the masses with their carefully concocted mixture. A local band pours their heart out in a different fashion on the makeshift stage while children frolick about near the bouncy house in the “under 21″ area. No one is frowning, no one is thinking of the presentation they have to make at work next week, no one brought their worries or cares inside the gate. Biker and businessman, hipster and nerd all rub shoulders on equal ground in this place. The tie that binds them is beer and the environment created around their shared love for this ancient beverage is equally as intoxicating.
As they seem to be expanding at a nearly exponential pace, it feels as though one could spend a lifetime on the beer festival circuit in America… and easily consider it a life well lived. From the Lager rich traditions of New England, to the innovative Hefeweizens crafted in the Pacific Northwest, and all of the big drinkable Belgian influenced beers of the Midwest in-between, Americans are enjoying the beauty and diversity of beer like never before. So much so that in 2014, a motion reached the city council in Portland, OR recommending that the city be rechristened “Beervana” as a reflection of the explosion of new breweries there. It was, of course, rejected, but that doesn’t stop citizens from using the nickname with pride as they navigate the 20-plus beer festivals that take place in their hometown annually. Yes, you read that right. 20-plus beer festivals in just one mid-sized city annually. You could go to one per month and barely catch half of them.
If a person had the ability to go on this most joyous adventure, navigating this massive and continually growing beer festival circuit, you might be inclined to ask them, “Which is the best beer festival in the US?”. The answer you might receive from this road tested veteran of hops and barley, while somewhat cryptic, will almost certainly change your life for the better. The best beer festival in the United States is the one nearest you. You don’t need lederhosen or a mustache to attend. Generally speaking, the price of a movie ticket will get you in and get you exposure to something both delicious and delightful, and after a few samplings, regardless of how they may not seem to be your type on the outside, it’s almost impossible not to make a new friend.