Summer is upon us. For many beer lovers that means two things: craft beer and music festivals. They go hand-in-hand, because if you’re going to a festival you may as well be drinking quality brew. While it’s not as difficult to booze it up with a nice selection of beer at your campsite, finding good stuff on festival grounds can be a different story.
Take a look at the partners or sponsors for a huge chunk of festivals, especially big ones, and you’ll quickly realize that the big beer companies have a stake in pretty much everything. So, when it comes to attending festivals where you can take in great music and enjoy independent craft beer, you may find yourself with more of a challenge. But fear not, they do exist.
It would be easy to just include every small to mid-size festival in Oregon, California and Colorado in this list, but that would be too easy. And truthfully – despite the monopolistic reach of LiveNation and InBev – there are tons of fests around the country that still maintain an independent, grassroots, and hyper local vibe.
Those factors basically formed the standards for creating this list. The eight festivals highlighted below are ones where you can rely on minimum security hassle, a lack of corporate sponsors, tolerable and friendly crowds and, most importantly, amazing music alongside a selection of craft beer to appease even the snobbiest beer geeks.
Deep in the stunningly gorgeous New England landscape of the Berkshires is a little festival that always boasts a huge lineup of amazing talent. This year is no exception, with groups like Old Crow Medicine Show, Dr, Dog, Magna Carda, Birds of Chicago, The Revelers, and Big Mean Sound Machine all on the bill.
To enhance your musical experience, you can indulge in a variety of beers from the always respectable and always on point Berkshire Brewing Company, who is also a sponsor. So head to the beer tents and grab yourself a Steel Rail Pale Ale. Once you have a cold beer in hand, take a walk around the festival grounds, take in the hot air balloons, and enjoy the good times.
This festival’s slogan may be “Freedom,” but it can’t be farther from the abomination that was Budweiser’s Big Beer clusterfuck Made In America Fest. Held in the rolling hills of Floyd, Virginia, Floyd Fest is an intimate affair with a big lineup that this year includes a multi-genre mélange of acts like Gryzzle, The National Reserve, Mad Iguanas, Dharma Bombs, and South Hill Banks.
To bring your festy experience to eleven you’ll have a variety of tasty local brews to choose from the likes of Starr Hill Brewery, Parkway Brewing Co., Foothills Brewing, and Bold Rock Cider among others. Grab some tye-dye and your favorite canteen cup and hit the road for Floyd Fest.
Considering that New Belgium is a partner and this fest takes place in the home of Oskar Blues, you can expect some awe-inspiring beer to complement the bluegrass-centric lineup. The 46th edition of this fest features Hot Rize, Sam Bush Bluegrass Band, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, I Draw Slow and more. Surrounded by picturesque Colorado canyons, you can sit back and relax with a cold one while taking in delightful bluegrass tunes, or you can dance the night away with the hippies.
We all know Portland, Oregon is the craft beer mecca, but you might not know that in the summertime the city is also a music festival mecca. No festival does a better job of capturing the city’s open-minded, eclectic spirit as Pickathon.
Now in its 20th year, this annual shindig takes place on a private farm about twenty minutes from downtown Portland. Each year the festival features a superbly curated lineup that covers pretty much every genre, from Americana and alt-country acts to indie and psych rock, world music and hip-hop. All of this is presented across a handful of gorgeous stages. Of course, this being Portland, Pickathon also offers a prime selection of tasty local brews. At around $5 a pint, prices for beer are fair too, which is a rarity at festivals.
Yes, Heineken now owns all of Lagunitas Brewing, but remember that the brewery has always been a major supporter of live music, and this fest happens to be right in their backyard. They even have their own stage, so you can bet that there will be a selection of top notch Lagunitas beer.
In terms of music, this year’s lineup is heavy on West Coast hippie rock, with acts like the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Scott Law and Moonalice to kick out the jams under the California sky. It’s also worth noting that this fest benefits music programs in local schools, so you can feel good about drinking beer and rocking out all day.
Here’s another fest that actually takes place at a brewery, which is about as good as it gets. In this case it’s Montana’s Big Sky Brewery and their outdoor summer concert stage. The venue itself is supposed to be beautiful, and this year it will be home to the first ever Travlers’ Rest, a small two-day fest thrown by intellectual rockers The Decemberists
For this event they’ve put together a solid lineup of bands that includes The Decemberists, Death Cab For Cutie, Mavis Staples and more. You can bet that there will be plenty of Big Sky beer flowing too, so it might be time to consider a road trip.
Beloved cannery Oskar Blues has gotten deep into the festival game, and we should all be happy for that. In 2012, they opened a massive brewing facility in North Carolina, and this fest is a sort of celebration of that Eastward expansion for the craft beer pioneer.
With the extremely danceable beats of the hometown band Supatight and the delicious funky soul of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe among the musical acts, the tunes alone are worth hitting this one up for. But the real drool-worthy lineup is in the beers that will be available. There will be over fifty breweries on-site and, in true Oskar Blues fashion, there will be over two hundred (seriously!) canned beers available. While you’re soaking up two days of awesome tunes, your liver will be able to soak up beers from the likes of Cigar City, Destihl, Green Man, Southern Barrel and Bird Song among many others. North Carolina is bursting at the seams with breweries these days, so it’s recommended you turn this fest into a craft beer road.
Colorado is already beer-lovers heaven, so why not build a music festival around the stuff? As far as locations go, Telluride is about as good as it gets. The tiny town and the park where this fest is held is completely surrounded by majestic mountains and vibrant greenery. The crisp mountain air is ideal for drinking delicious craft beer, and this year you’ll be able to savor brews from the likes of Ska Brewing, Avery, Boulder Beer, Epic, Great Divide and many more. The musical lineup is out of site too with Robert Plant, Gov’t Mule, JJ Grey & Mofro, Anders Osborne and tons more acts.