Attending beer festivals in your hometown is convenient, affordable, fun and full of people you know (and hopefully like), so why travel to a festival?
You deserve a vacation (yes, you) and it’s a great excuse to discover new beers that you can’t find at home. I’ve had many a beer adventure in the past few years and my husband and I now plan our trips around this theme. Close to home, we go to the Great Canadian Beer Festival (GCBF) in Victoria, which is held during the first weekend of September (September 6-7, 2013). Established in 1993, GCBF is the longest running, craft-only festival in Canada. It hosts many BC breweries, a smattering of other Canadian breweries as well as a few from the USA. It’s a well-run festival with plenty of beer options and a beautiful city to visit.
Canada is stepping up their game and more large festivals are cropping up every month. Cask Days, in its 9th year, is a Toronto festival (October 19-20, 2013) and has an impressive lineup of over 200 casks representing more than 100 breweries from Canada and this year’s feature breweries from the United Kingdom. This is a worthy vacation destination for this festival alone.
Explore New Cities & Countries
Your vacation may have a beer festival as its epicenter but while you’re there, you will undoubtedly explore the new city/country. Discovering the local culture and meeting new people makes traveling interesting and rewarding.
Our vacations have mainly focused on US destinations such as Seattle (Seattle International Beer Festival), Portland (Fresh Hop Festival), San Diego (Stone Brewing Anniversary and Invitational Beer Festival), New York (various venues) and most recently, Denver for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) Oct 10-12. I’ll write on the GABF experience in my next article. The US has a huge craft beer market and with a little research at www.beerfestivals.org, you can find your next vacation destination. Beer Advocate has a great search engine http://beeradvocate.com/events/calendar where you can sort the festivals by country.
Internationally, the options are limitless. Belgium is a mecca for amazing beer and enormous beer festivals and is on our list for September 2014 (Borefts Beer Festival). Germany, England, Australia and countless other countries host beer festivals – you have a lot of traveling to do so get on it.
The local Vancouver festivals are relatively small (20 – 30 breweries participate), last 4-5 hours and can have limited selection. Depending on the festival , each brewery may only bring one cask/keg or if it’s a larger festival with an broader audience of both new and experienced craft beer drinkers, they may bring a few of their standard beers. Although I may like their usual beers, I like to try new and experimental beers, casks, seasonal releases and rare or aged beers. A larger beer festival that is stretched over two or three days is a perfect opportunity to challenge your palate and try numerous beers.
Mmm, no, I’m not talking about a pretty new spoon for your collection – you’re bringing back beer, t-shirts and glassware from breweries and maybe a growler or two. Keeping within duty limits, of course, maximize your 8.5 litre allotment per person and purchase bottles from your favourite breweries. Hopefully you’ll find some rare gems to make your friends even more jealous.
Have I convinced you yet that travel and beer go hand-in-hand? Good – here are some travel tips.
- Pack lightly so you have room to bring back beer and souvenirs.
- Consider taking some of your favourite local beers to your destination. Your new beer friends will love you.
- Bring an extra carry-on suitcase in your checked luggage. It’s cheaper to check two bags than to pay the overweight charges on one bag.
- Pack bubble wrap – t-shirts work too but I use bubble wrap on the bottles and t-shirts to fill in any space around the bottles. I haven’t had a broken bottle yet.
- Take a travel scale to make sure you don’t go over the 50lb weight restriction!
Now go enjoy your vacation and don’t forget to send me a postcard, or better yet, bring me back a beer. Cheers!