Summer is almost upon us, and we can practically taste the light, breezy seasonal ales being produced around the country. According to the Brewers Association, there were 2,360 craft breweries in the United States as of March — and this summer, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sample their finest work at beer festivals across North America. Hop along as we highlight five gatherings that garnered our interest.
Detroit Summer Beer Fest, June 21-22
June just might be the best time to visit the Motor City — it’s Detroit Craft Beer Month. Sample the city’s finest pours at Detroit Summer Beer Fest, a two-day event at Campus Martius Park that celebrates local breweries such as Motor City Brewing Works and Atwater Brewery; regional brewers such as Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland; and nationally recognized brands such as Sierra Nevada, Blue Moon and Hornsby’s. The final brewery count is expected to hover around 60 (28 were confirmed at the time of this writing). While sipping all of those brews, you’ll work up an appetite; take your pick from barbecue ribs, chicken potpie, handmade pretzels and burgers from local vendors. Tickets start at $45 (or $70 for both days), with VIP admission offered Saturday for $70.
Where to stay: Book a room at the Four-Star MGM Grand Detroit. The luxury hotel is only a mile away from Campus Martius Park, so you’re in prime territory to walk to the festival or take a short cab ride to the park.
Atlanta Summer Beer Fest, June 22
There’s a reason Atlanta once affectionately held the nickname “Hotlanta” — the average high temperature in June is 86 degrees. Most Atlantans try to stay indoors or in pools on hot summer weekends, but many make an exception for the Atlanta Summer Beer Fest. Held at the Masquerade Music Park, this celebration taps more than 150 beers from Atlanta-based brewing powerhouses like SweetWater, Terrapin and Red Brick, and a secretive list of outside brewers that isn’t released until the week of the event. Challenge your friends to a game of life-size Jenga, pose in the free photo booth and cool off with a famous King of Pops gourmet popsicle. Just don’t forget to buy your ticket early; admission is $35 in advance, $40 after June 13 and $48 on the day of the event.
Where to stay: Check in at the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended TWELVE Centennial Park Hotel. The boutique property has a relaxed, quiet vibe that makes it a good place to recover from a beerfest-induced hangover, though we suggest pacing yourself so you can fully enjoy the rooftop pool the next day.
Denver Summer Brew Fest, July 26
Denver Summer Brew Fest is a win-win festival: You get to enjoy brews from more than 45 breweries, while proceeds from the event benefit Swallow Hill Music, a nonprofit that offers concert, school and outreach programming in the Denver community. Beer fans will converge at Mile High Station to sip samples from Colorado favorites such as Left Hand Brewing Co. and Strange Brewing Company, plus other breweries, such as Angry Orchard and Sierra Nevada. This one-evening-only event takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. July 26. General admission is $35 ($30 in advance), but you can score an extra hour of tasting by splurging for a VIP ticket ($45, $40 in advance).
Where to stay: You can rest easy knowing that the festival is within two miles of all three Four-Star hotels in Denver: The Ritz-Carlton, Denver, The Brown Palace Hotel and Four Seasons Hotel Denver.
Toronto’s Festival of Beer, July 26-28
Toronto’s Festival of Beer draws some 35,000 visitors and local beer lovers each year for tasting events, educational seminars and live entertainment. This year, the festival turns 19 — which just so happens to be the legal drinking age in Canada. Toast the festival’s coming of age by tasting the wares of more than 60 brewers, as well as onsite wine, cider and ready-to-drink beverages — a variety that isn’t offered at every beer fest. Restaurants from around Toronto will dish up Canadian classics like poutine and fresh oysters, plus foolproof bar fare such as burgers. You’ll also want to stop by the Grilling Tent for demonstrations by famous Canadian chef Ted Reader. The Brewmaster’s Pavilion is a can’t-miss for beer drinkers who want to learn more about their favorite beverage; last year, brewers discussed topics such as beer styles, cooking with beer, and the relationship between beer and serving glass in the intimate, informal setting. Tickets start at $39.50 for admission to the festival, with VIP packages going up to $800.
Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto offers a convenient base for the fest. It’s just over 2.5 miles away from the grounds at Exhibition Place, but you can get there fairly easily on the light rail at the King St. West and John St. station, just a five-minute walk from the Four-Star address.
Milwaukee Brewfest, July 27
Who doesn’t love a cold beer by the lake on a hot day? Milwaukee Brewfest attendees will be able to enjoy unlimited samples of more than 250 craft brews at the Old Coast Guard Pavilion overlooking Lake Michigan. Be sure to spend some time meandering your way down the festival’s German Row and Cider Row in between visits to the serving stations manned by Milwaukee Brewing Company, Ale Asylum, Lagunitas Brewing Company, The Boston Beer Company and Abita Brewing Company, among several others. And, perfect your bow because one lucky lady will leave the festival as royalty after the crowning of the 2013 Milwaukee Brewfest Queen. Tickets are $45 ($40 in advance), with VIP tickets going for $65 ($60 in advance).
Where to stay: Though it’s a bit of a commute, InterContinental Milwaukee is the best place to rest your head at the end of this fun festival. Check in a day early and ask the concierge about touring Lakefront Brewery, MillerCoors or Sprecher Brewing Co.
Photos Courtesy of Tom Story, Always ATL and Toronto Festival of Beer