The Brew Studs Guide To American Winter Craft Beer Festivals

naperville winter craft beer fest

Embrace your inner darkness at a Winter Beer Fest.

There are two types of craft beer fans – those who embrace their inner darkness – and those who shy away from “dark beers” (by the way “dark” is not an actual style of beer; in fact, it’s a pretty meaningless way of describing beer). I myself am guilty of previously possessing a preference for the light, sweet or hoppy stuff, having only switched to developing an obsession for porters and a healthy addiction for barrel-aged stouts in the past year or so. Regardless of your preconceived prejudices, now is a great time to dabble in the art of craft beer tasting by visiting one of America’s Winter Craft Beer Fests.

Test the winter waters at Cincy Winter Beerfest and expand your confined palate to uncover a humble appreciation for the mellow malts and subtle vanilla flavor profile in Elevator Brewing Company‘s Barrel Aged Horney Goat American Porter. Or, savor sips of a sophisticated Rodenbach Vintage 2011 Flanders Red Ale at the North American Belgian Beer Festival in Westland, Michigan. Whether you are into exclusive rare vintages or are just looking for a cheap buzz, we got you covered with our handy guide below (check dates for all festivals).

Most Mainstream Winter Beer Fest(s) – TIE

Winter Beerfest

Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia

If you live in the Great Lakes region, that means you have options. The Annual (Insert City Here) WINTER BEERFEST is (insert city here)’s “Biggest Craft Beer Festival” according to organizers, and the fest features some 350 plus Craft Beers in “over 220,000 square feet of Craft Beer Awesomeness!” With five different stops, you can’t be too far from one of this company’s festivals at all times. Proceeds benefit local nonprofit organizations.

America On Tap

Nationwide

America On Tap is a series of craft beer festivals across the country that are said to reflect the area’s regional beers and preferences, so each event has a different brewery list. Sample over 150 releases from some of America’s best craft breweries. Plus hang out in an atmosphere filled with live music, delicious food available for purchase, and great vendors. America On Tap is in over 20 states and growing, so that tells me they’re big into quantity. Not sure about the quality though, we welcome your thoughts.

Most Local Pride Winter Beer Fest

Michigan City, IN

Held in the “heart of the Uptown Arts District” in Michigan City, Indiana, Shelf Ice Brew Fest II features “well over 30 breweries and hundreds of beers to try.” The event is a fundraiser for the Michigan City Mainstreet Association and all of the proceeds help fund other downtown events and improvements. Kudos for helping the community while enjoying fine winter craft beers!

Coldest Winter Beer Fest

craft beer fest ice penguin

Naperville Winter Ale Fest

Naperville, IL

The Annual Naperville Winter Ale Fest  is situated on the frozen tundra of Naperville’s Frontier Park and features 120 unique beers from craft breweries around the country. Organizers want you to “Pull out your long-johns and parkas,” and “experience winter’s best craft beers.” Breweries in attendance appear well balanced and modern food truck cuisine is sure to warm your bum while you freeze on the frozen tundra. I hear the more you drink the warmer you feel. WRONG. Hypothermia is very real people. Use caution.

Best Winter Belgian Fest

Westland, MI

The North American Belgian Beer Festival (NABBF) is the single largest exclusively Belgian beer festival in the US. The group claims “If it’s not brewed in Belgium, it’s not here”. This festival is intriguing because tokens are reserved for rare and limited availability beers, otherwise tasters can sample some 200 beers brewed in 80 different Belgian breweries – talk about a Belgian-lovers utopia. You can also sit in on a Belgian expert beer talk or participate in a Petrus Sour Beer Blending seminar (Jealous!).

Funkiest Winter Beer Fest

Westland, MI

Ultimate Funk Beer Fest – If winter ales bore you to tears, try mixing things up with a winter sour beer fest. This fest features over 100 different sour or funky brews from 60 breweries, with 8 countries represented. Don’t let winter blues sour your mood, try something different at Ashley’s (I should be getting paid for the free advertising).

Highest Winter Beer Fest

Denver, San Diego

Denver’s Winter Brew Fest is the Highest Winter Beer Fest for many reasons. First of all it’s the Mile High City, where weed is legal. What? Oh yeah. The annual festival at Mile High Station features 40 breweries each night and live music. “Beat the crowds with the 6-7pm VIP tasting which includes general admission and a special cheese sampling by Mouco Cheese.” Insert joke about “special cheese”.

Most Hyped Winter Beer Fest

Boston

Extreme Beer Fest is “the ultimate throwdown of craft beer creativity,” its website so boldy promises. “Join us we celebrate brewers who push the boundaries of brewing and raise a fist at the norm.” Take that – NORM! “Palates will be inspired. Minds will be blown. Prepare for epicness.” AHHH!!! Mind preparing to be BLOWN! “Three sessions of epicness await you as you get extreme with BeerAdvocate beer snobs.” Right on, that sounds dope.

Most American Winter Belgian Beer Fest

Seattle

The Annual Belgian Fest – We admittedly got a little lazy with the superlative, but this actually sounds like an amazing taste of the American interpretation of Belgian ales, lambics, tripels and the rest of the Belgian beers we all love. It’s as American as Belgian beer gets. Put that in your pipe.

Hottest Winter Brew Fest

SoCal Winter Brewfest Craft Beer and Cornhole

So Cal Winter Brew Fest

Anaheim, CA

So Cal Winter Brew Fest – held at The Phoenix Club, the fest features unlimited tasting of 50 plus craft beers including Winter Beers & hard ciders. Plus, as the temperature in Anaheim ranges from mid 40’s to low 70’s, it’s safe to say the “Winter” is just a formality here, so relax in a tank and some flops while you sip on a variety of winter brews and dream about that timeshare in Breckenridge. A portion of the proceeds will go be donated to a community food rescue organization called Food Finder, so you can sip for a cause.

Most Ghetto Fab Winter Beer Fest

Eugene, OR

KLCC microbrew festival – This festival isn’t for the uber sophisiticated beer snob. Its own website advertises “80 Breweries serving 190 flavors!” Flavors…Seriously? But hey, for a whopping $12 for an advance ticket you get to sip on samples from the West Coast’s finest. Or, if you’re feeling ghetto fabulous, you might dip into some Guinness or Woodchuck Hard Cider, but please come to your senses and try some of Lagunitas or Dogfish Head’s offerings. There’s also entertainment by regionally recognizable “bands”- it’s only $12 and you’re in Eugene, Oregon. Congrats.

Classiest Winter Beer Fest

Durham, NC

NC Rare & Vintage Beer Tasting – This fest is so fancy it calls itself a “tasting.” $100 gets you entrance with the “Imperial tasting ticket”- which includes bottled water and soda, free buffet and passed appetizers, a tasting notebook, commemorative glass AND a Free TSHIRT! If that doesn’t sell you alone, this festival offers rare and/or vintage beers from 50 Breweries, and “brewery representatives will be pouring in an intimate environment, allowing attendants the opportunity to learn what makes these beers so special and those that brewed them,” organizers posted on Facebook…Pinkies Up for this ridiculously classy festival.

Most Confused Winter Beer Fest

Phoenix

Arizona Strong Beer Festival – Featuring over 120 different breweries and over 350 brews including a variety of beers “strong” in flavor…Do they mean Strong Ales or strong flavors? Either way, this festival features “Something for everyone. Enjoy rare beers, collabrews, sour, IPAs and more” and is “the marquee event for Arizona Beer Week. This event will sell out. Details at strongbeerfest.com or www.arizonabeerweek.com.” This festival is so confused it has two sites. Sip, sip, wink.

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Louisiana native, Colorado living. Craft beer journalist rooted in sarcasm sprinkled with humor and a fascination for all things fermented. Music: hip hop and French electronic music. Mom slash wife. Yoga. Beer. Etc. Instagram @boldtowngirl. Twitter @R_Worthy.

3 Comments

  1. Dale Everett

    January 20, 2016 at 8:48 AM

    you forgot to mention The best winter beer fest here in Michigan! http://www.mibeer.com/winter-festival

  2. CW (@filmbuffcw)

    February 26, 2016 at 9:58 AM

    Why is San Diego listed with Denver under “Highest Winter Beer Fest”? The text only talks about Denver.

  3. Rachel Dugas

    March 25, 2016 at 2:33 PM

    @filmbuffcw The San Diego and Denver Winter Beer Fest(s) are produced by the same company, that’s why I listed them together, but technically Denver was the highest festival..for obvious reasons.

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