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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

While it’s always a great time for a delicious craft beer, it’s also fun to celebrate beer with others—and the upcoming months bring an array of awesome beer festivals where people celebrate in style.

Beer weeks and festivals celebrate the culture and community of craft beer and give fans options to enjoy new and special brews. Here are just a few beer events to put on your calendar:

San Marcos: Stone 21st Anniversary Celebration and Invitational Beer Festival, Aug. 19: Hailed as one of the godfathers of craft-beer events, this is not your average beer festival. It’s not only the largest craft-beer festival in Southern California; the beers are carefully selected to include some of the finest and rarest beers around.

Seattle: Washington Beer Collaboration Festival, Aug. 19: Washington celebrates collaboration and creativity by featuring 25 unique collaboration beers from 50 different Washington breweries. Stay tuned for the pairings. The second annual two-day outdoor event is presented by the Washington Beer Commission.

Philadelphia: Labor Day Volksfest, Sept. 2-4: Willkommen bei freunden! Every Labor Day Weekend, the Cannstatter Volksfest Verein hosts a lively three-day party. Celebrating German heritage since 1873, this is the oldest Volksfest in the United States.

Sacramento: California Craft Beer Summit and Summit Beer Festival, Sept. 7-9: Experience two full days of beer education, networking and tradeshows for brewers, retailers, distributors and craft-beer lovers at the convention center on Sept. 7 and 8. On Saturday, Sept. 9, enjoy a plethora of California craft beers at the largest beer festival on the West Coast, with more than 160 California craft breweries.

Charleston: Charleston Beer Week, Sept. 9-16: The fifth annual Charleston Beer Week celebrates the South Carolina’s city’s craft beer community, from brewer to bartender and keg to glass. The city now boasts 19 production breweries, four brewpubs and numerous craft beer-focused pubs and restaurants. Keep a look out on the website for a list of 48 sudsy events across the city.

Big Bear: Big Bear Oktoberfest, September-October: Held among pine trees, mountains and Big Bear Lake, this is one of the longest running Oktoberfests in the country. Guests are treated to authentic German entertainment, brats, knockwursts and German beers in a beautiful alpine setting.

Denver: Great American Beer Festival, Oct. 5-7: The Great American Beer Festival is the premier U.S. beer festival and competition. In its 30th year, the 2016 GABF competition awarded 286 medals to some of the best commercial breweries in the U.S. Want another reason to visit? With more than 3,500 different beers from over 700 of the nation’s finest breweries, the event is listed as one of the top 1,000 “places” in the U.S. to visit before you die.

San Diego, San Diego Beer Week, Nov. 3-12: From “Bikes, Brews and Brats With Green Flash” and a “Beer Train Trolley Tour” to “Hops on the Harbor With Flagship Cruises and Belching Beaver Brewery” and a “Rare Beer Breakfast,” this 10-day craft-beer celebration features events like no other.

Greater Palm Springs: Coachella Valley Beer Week, Nov. 10-19: Established in 2015 by yours truly, CVBW is a craft-beer celebration featuring festivals, dinners, tours, tastings and meet-the-brewer nights in and around Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indio and La Quinta.

Published in Beer

“There are 4,700 breweries in the U.S., and 10,000 wineries. There’s room to grow.” —David Walker, Firestone Walker Brewing

The craft-beer movement has reached nearly every nook and cranny of the Golden State: Some 80 percent of Californians live within five miles of a craft brewery—including the vast majority of us in the Coachella Valley, thanks to Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, La Quinta Brewing Co. and Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

Thus, it makes perfect sense that the folks at the California Craft Brewers Association decided to brew up the California Craft Beer Summit.

The second annual three-day event recently took place in Sacramento. There are now 700 breweries in California, which provide jobs for more than 50,000 people, according to the California Craft Brewers Association. California craft beer contributed $7.29 billion to the state economy in 2015, and the summit plays a vital role in bringing together all of the players involved in the industry—from brewers to retailers, from distributors to craft-beer drinkers.

The event began on Thursday, Sept. 8, with a welcome reception. I missed it—but Sactown welcomed me just fine. America’s self-proclaimed Farm-to-Fork Capital has also proudly staked a claim as a craft-beer paradise. It would have been impossible to pay a proper visit to the region’s 45-plus breweries (with more on the way), but we were able to visit a couple while also soaking in beer knowledge at the summit. While Sacramento is obviously an important political city, the people there totally know how to have fun.

My Thursday night began at the Dive Bar. There’s a double meaning within that title that combines two of my favorite things: dive bars with great beer, and swimming. Strange, yes, but this rollicking bar features mermaid-costumed women swimming around in a giant fish tank above the bar. Seriously.

On Friday, the CCBS held educational sessions including “Bringing Malting Back to California” and “A Talk with AleSmith, Chartering Growth Over 21 Years.” Peter Zien, the CEO and owner of San Diego-based AleSmith, talked about staying true by brewing high-quality beers with passion and integrity—even when the market wasn’t quite ready for them yet back in the mid-’90s.

“You’re an artist and you’re a businessman, or -woman,” he told the audience.

In 2008, when much of the economy was suffering, Zien was ordering a brand-new brew system from China in order to “up (our) game.” AleSmith went from 1,100 barrels to just more than 4,000 that year—but it wasn’t without blood, sweat and fears. While the brew system was making its way to California on a ship, Zien feared the system would end up at the bottom of the ocean due to a grizzly typhoon that was brewing off China. Thankfully, the new brew system made it to San Diego just fine.

“It allowed me to dream,” Zien said, adding that the system helped AleSmith celebrate its most profitable year in 2013.

Long-time brewers like Zien have inspired younger brewers to dream—like Ken Anthony, of Device Brewing Co. in Sacramento, who is now making a name for himself with quality artisanal beers.

Anthony, Device’s owner and head brewer, was a structural engineer before entering the beer business, so it’s no surprise that Device uses a beautiful, custom-built 7 BBL brewhouse from Bennett Forgeworks to brew up some delicious IPAs and awesome seasonal brews.

I also got to know—and fell in love with—Berkeley-based Fieldwork Brewing Company, thanks to its beers, branding and atmosphere. The brewery makes awesome cards explaining every beer in detail, with humorous antidotes. The Salted Cucumber Farmhouse Ale is perfect for a hot day—and probably equally delicious on days that aren’t all that warm. According to the detailed card, “The addition of French sea salt keeps all taste buds on high alert, convincing you to keep chasing the cucumber.”

On Saturday, I attended the “Master Pairings: Craft and Artisanal Chocolate” session with Bill Sysak. “Dr. Bill” is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on craft beer and food pairings. His session was a wonderful way to start a day. That afternoon, the Summit Beer Festival pleased hundreds of beer-drinkers with the creations of more than 160 breweries. The lineup was arranged by region across the Capitol Mall: San Francisco Bay area, Northern California, Los Angeles, San Diego and Central California.

It was an awesome weekend that showed how truly amazing the California craft beer industry has become. Cheers to California craft!

Published in Beer