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Beer is delicious on its own, but when paired with a culinary creation out of a chef’s wildest dreams, it takes the flavor to a whole new level. If you’re someone who fancies yourself a foodie and loves a tasty pint too, you’ll want to check out one of the hundreds of brew and food festivals across the U.S. this year.
While there are far too many to name, there are several notable events that draw hundreds of vendors and thousands of people around the world every year that are a must-see if you’re a festival lover.
Here, we’ll give you the details so you can plan your trip to check out an epic craft beer and food festival, to stop by an infamous brew and food establishment, or to cater to your vegan tastes.
Whether you’re looking for a huge, multi-day event or to belly up to the bar for some tasty grub at a popular brew restaurant, we’ve got you covered with one of our recommendations.
For Craft Beer Lovers
If you’re searching for a craft beer and food festival, chances are good that there’s one right in your own backyard. Thanks to craft breweries popping up on every corner, about 80 percent of Americans live within 10 miles of one.
If you’re up for some travel, check out one of these large, nationally recognized events.
Cigar City Brewing is known for their amazing craft beers, and one of it’s most notable is their Hanahpu Spiced Stout. Their annual beer festival, celebrating its 9th year in March 2018, is named after this brew.
While Hanahpu’s Day has had some notable snafu’s through the years, including considerable issues with counterfeit tickets in 2014 that saw many festival goers unable to enter the event despite having paid for tickets.
What could have spelled catastrophe turned into a great opportunity for Cigar City to make things right with their customers and fans, and since the event has become bigger and better than ever.
This year, attendees can expect to same brews from over 150 different breweries, partake in tasty bites from local and internationally known food trucks, and take home four, eight, or twelve bottles of their favorites with their VIP admission.
Dark Lord Day
3 Floyds Brewing Company is known for more than great beer. While they definitely produce combinations that will make your palate tap dance with joy, they have a quirky side that makes visiting their brewpub a truly unique experience.
Since 2004 3 Floyds has celebrated Dark Lord Day where they offer a one-day release of the namesake Russian-Style Imperial Stout. You can only purchase the bottles, which are infused with coffee, Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar in person at the brewery in Munster, Indiana.
Although the brew is a draw all on its own, you can also partake in the festival while you’re there. The hybrid of metal music, food pairings, and people watching is a can’t-miss event.
Festival tickets are usually less than $50 and include food, drinks, and a guaranteed Dark Lord variant to take home as part of your four-bottle swag. Just get your tickets early for a chance to score the coveted Vanilla Bean flavor.
Great American Beer Festival
You can’t talk about brew and food festivals in the U.S. without mentioning the Great American Beer Festival. This hallmark event for craft beer lovers across the country, and the world happens every year in Colorado in the fall.
Ongoing annually since 1982, the GABF brings attendees to the Colorado Convention Center where you can sample the concoctions from 800 different breweries. That’s over 3,500 different beers to try!
Not only is the event an incredible time, but for the week leading up to it, the city of Denver transforms into festival-mode, welcoming visitors and offering unique experiences at the many breweries throughout.
Expect the four-day event to be packed full of people, but with all the space the venue has to offer, you’ll never feel crowded. Check out one of the kitschy hangout spots, like The Backyard, The Brewpub Pavillon, Silent Disco or the Metal Room to find your people.
Foodies will devour the “Paired” portion of the festival, where local chefs and restaurants create small plates that match perfectly with one of the thousands of beers available for tasting. There will be 21 chefs offering one-of-a-kind pairings, so come hungry (and thirsty).
Who says carnivores get to have all the fun? There are dozens of vegan beer and food festival options across the country that focus on sustainable, natural, and organic choices. Here are a few notable events.
VegOut! Scottsdale Beer & Food Festival
The annual VegOut! Beer and Food Festival in Scottsdale is put on by Food in Root, the same company that organizes half a dozen successful markets and monthly events in the area. The two-day brew and food festival in 2018 is March 17th and 18th and features vendors celebrating the vegan lifestyle.
Whether you’re a devout follower, or you just want to explore how tasty the lifestyle can be, this is a great event to whet your whistle and tantalize your palate all in one place.
EAT DRINK VEGAN
Another annual brew and food festival for vegans, Eat Drink Vegan, is coming to Pasadena, CA over Memorial Day weekend in 2018.
The festival offers attendees unlimited pours of regional craft beers, wines, and ciders as well as non-alcoholic choices like kombucha, cold brew coffee, craft sodas, and organic teas.
Event organizers curate over 100 different well-known vegan vendors including food trucks, restaurants, and carts to give you ample choices to pair with your brews.
Also expect to see an enormous vegan marketplace featuring retailers who offer things like clothing, food, skincare, and accessories that let you live your vegan lifestyle to the fullest.
For Restaurant Lovers
Brew and food festivals are always a good time, but if you would rather avoid the crowds and have a place to sit and enjoy your suds and snacks, a brew restaurant might be a better fit for you.
These are a few that are well-known for their custom craft concoctions and out of this world flavors that keep even the most discerning foodie coming back for more.
The Eagle Food and Beer Hall
When you think of seriously delicious southern style fried chicken and comfort food, chances are good you don’t think about going to the Midwest to score some. That’s probably because you’ve never heard of The Eagle Food and Beer Hall. This gem has locations in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Columbus, and Louisville and once you’ve tried their signature fried chicken, you’ll never want to go anywhere else.
Their recipe uses all-natural chickens who are raised free roaming and cage free to give them a distinctive and delicious flavor. They brine and dredge the meat before putting it into their custom-built fryers that turn it into golden brown and slightly spicy perfection.
They make their accompaniment, a hot honey dipping sauce, in-house daily giving you a drool-worthy experience.
Best of all, The Eagle recognizes that great food should be paired with a great beer, and they stock over 100 different bottles of craft beers from breweries locally and across the country. Their bartenders are knowledgeable, and can easily match you with the perfect pint to go with your chicken and other homemade southern-style goodies.
Another well-known brewpub that’s worth the drive, the Portsmouth Brewery has been crafting suds since 1991. Located in New Hampshire, they serve over 250,000 pints of beer to their patrons annually. They make all their in-house batches by hand, using traditional methods and high-quality ingredients to give you an excellent end result.
At many breweries, food is an afterthought, but that’s not the case at Portsmouth. They like to say that they take as much pride in their food as they do in their beers and the pub prepares all of their soups, sauces, desserts, and dressings in-house.
Their menu features weekly specials that highlight local in-season produce and ingredients. They rotate their offerings seasonally to ensure they’re using the freshest goods available when they prepare their dishes.
Whether you’re looking for a weekend jam-packed with beer tasting and food pairings, or a chill evening out with your friends, there’s a brew and food festival or restaurant that is the perfect choice.
If you’re planning to hit up one of the festivals we mention above, or other large events across the country, be sure to buy your tickets early. Events, especially ones that offer exclusive access to hard to find brews like the Dark Lord Stout sell out quickly. Local events held by your backyard craft breweries are sometimes easier to access, though on beer drinking holidays like St. Patrick’s Day or during Oktoberfest might be just as crowded.
Don’t forget to figure out your transportation before you go, because if you plan to do a generous tasting, you’ll be in no shape to drive home.
The key is to plan ahead so that when you arrive, you can just relax and enjoy everything the experience has to offer.