In every state in America, a drinking-centric festival will be held in 2018. Some states celebrate beer best, some prefer whiskey, and others prefer to focus on anything and everything local. No matter where in the U.S. you are (or where you’re traveling to), there’s an event to put on your calendar to taste the best of the best and see what the country’s alcohol producers and bartenders have to offer.
Charleston: The Ultimate Local's Guide
The 40,000-person town of Florence, Alabama, brings variety in a big way. More than 200 wines from around the world are poured at the Florence Wine Fest, and there are pairings with local food. It all starts with a red carpet, cocktail-attire-only Champagne event with live music, which rolls into a full day of wine tasting at event hubs like the Bubbly Tent and the full beer and cocktail bar.
Alaska: BodegaFest in November in Anchorage
Since 2006, locally loved beer, wine and spirits store La Bodega has hosted BodegaFest, an event that celebrates all that is alcohol, art and food in Alaska and beyond. There’s a special beer release at the event, as well as a chance to drink some of the best mead and cider you can find in the last frontier.
More than 2,000 people will flock to Arizona’s Chandler Craft Spirits Festival, and it’s easy to understand why. Craft beer, spirits and wine will be available for tasting, as well as more than 50 different cocktails. The website promises “generous pours,” making it one of the best ways to get a taste of what’s going on in Arizona’s drinking scene.
Arkansas: Food & Foam Fest on April 13 in Little Rock
More than 400 craft beers, ciders and wines will be poured at the Food & Foam Fest, and local restaurateurs will bring their best food. This year, the event is celebrating its 21st iteration, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Arthritis Foundation’s Ale for Arthritis.
San Diego is one of the best cities in the country for craft beer, and it’s quickly becoming the same for craft spirits and cocktails. The Distilled festival will bring more than 180 different spirits and mixers to the city (here are the 2017 bottles that were featured), including some things you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Plus there are bands, presentations, food and chances to meet distillers. You couldn’t ask for anything more.
The Great American Beer Festival is the American beer festival to end all beer festivals. Countless breweries from around the country gather in downtown Denver to show off their best brews. The festival itself is something to behold, but the endless list of beer specials and tap takeovers around the city are a whole other experience unto themselves. If you like drinking beer, this is a bucket list event.
This festival features some of the top live entertainment in the state and great beer right in the center of downtown Hartford. Soak in tunes from the large stage, suds from the list of Connecticut breweries, food from local vendors, and sights from the parading participants.
Delaware’s first official wine and beer festival is still one of the best. Literally all of Delaware’s breweries, wineries and distilleries come to the state fairgrounds in Harrington for a huge mashup of everything Delaware alcohol. There are also food trucks with Delaware specialties, and, with the event held on fairgrounds, plenty of games to play.
Spirit industry professionals, more than 100 different spirits and cocktails, local chefs and live jazz—what’s not to like in that impressive list of highlights at the Craft Spirits Fest? Now in its sixth year, Miami’s biggest spirits and cocktail festival is the place to be if you fancy yourself a fan of good drink. Plus there is a list of events before and after the main tasting that celebrate all that Miami has to offer.
Georgia: Oktoberfest in Helen from the second Thursday in September to the first Sunday in November in Helen
A couple hours in Helen, Georgia, during Oktoberfest and you’ll think you made the trip out to Germany. Now in it’s 48th year, the people of Helen do the German holiday right. The whole town is Alpine themed and kitschy, but in a way that makes you want to stay—especially during festival time. Sip German beer at a long table in the Festhalle, wander with some traditional food while taking in the leaves’ changing colors, or just wander among all the Bavarian-style buildings in the town.
You may think that there are better things to do on Hawaii than going to a drinking-focused festival. To that we say, you’re wrong. The Maui Brewers Festival celebrates all that is craft beer on the island, as well as hard cider, root beer and kombucha.
This might surprise you, but Idaho is home to one of the largest beer festivals in the Northwest. Around 100 breweries participate and share 60,000 square feet of tent space at the Sandy Downs Race Track with food vendors, live music and auctions. And you can feel good about going too, as all proceeds are donated to local charities.
Illinois: Chicago Style on May 7-10 in Chicago
A new cocktail conference starting this year, Chicago Style promises to be a socially aware event that’s “equal parts think and drink, celebration and critique, party and platform.” You’ll get insight into the state of the bar industry, diverse voices and the headlining event: the national championship round of Speed Rack, a bartender competition created by and for female bartenders.
This spring, you need to welcome warmer weather with whiskey. The Indianapolis Spring Whiskey Festival is a two-hour tasting with food and drink specials, whiskey giveaways and more. It features some of the top whiskey from around the world. Live bands and a portion of proceeds donated to a local charity just sweeten the experience all the more.
Now in its third year, Des Moines on Tap wants you to know that the “hopportunity” to taste the best of the best in Iowa craft beer is waiting for you. Local bands provide live entertainment, and Des Moines restaurants will provide the food (and the beer festival favorite, pretzel necklaces).
Kansas: Midwest Beerfest on October 12-13 in Mulvane
If you’re not in Kansas anymore, you may want to reconsider the Midwest Beerfest. Food and a silent auction transition seamlessly into a beer festival featuring some of the best beers from the top breweries in the country.
It doesn’t get much more bourbon filled than the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, the city nicknamed the Bourbon Capital of the World. The six day event is the ultimate high-low combo of black tie galas and boots and bourbon events. If you’re a fan of bourbon—whether you’re a fan for the history or because you love a good time—this is one festival you don’t want to miss.
Tales of the Cocktail has come a long way since it started as a small bar industry event in 2003. While it’s still geared toward the bar and spirits industry, it’s grown to hosting more than 300 events over six days, turning New Orleans into the place to go for any type of cocktail you could ask for.
Maine: Summer Session on July 28 in Portland
Summers in Portland are about kicking back with a beer and soaking in the sunshine on the seashore. The Summer Session Beer Festival put on by the Maine Brewers Guild takes that vibe and amplifies it with more than 90 breweries pouring hundreds of beers. Last year, a special appearance was made by the Maine Beer Box, which featured a beer from every brewery in Iceland.
The Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium are being turned into a Southern food and beverage paradise this year with a whole hog pig roast on Friday April 6 and a day of beer, bourbon, music and barbecue the following Saturday. More than 60 beers and more than 40 bourbons will be ready for drinking, and whole hogs from an award-winning pitmaster will keep stomachs full.
Massachusetts: Thirst Boston on April 27-29 in Boston
Thirst lives by a simple and, for cocktail nerds and enthusiasts, extremely enticing principle: “Learn by day, celebrate all night.” During the day, the festival’s classes span the cocktail world from spirits to advanced ice carving, topics that are much more fun than the word “class” suggests. Then at night, there are celebrations of everything New England beverage so you can party just like you used to after taking boring college classes.
You could travel Michigan and buy drinks from all the best bars in the state, or you could go to Royal Oak for a night and have all the best cocktails made right in front of you. Cocktail Confidential is a gathering of industry leaders that culminates in a face off to see who can make the best cocktail in seven categories: rum, gin, whiskey, tequila, vodka, liqueur and most unique.
Few things say brunch done right like a Bloody Mary. An entire Bloody Mary festival—the largest of its kind—celebrates the joy of brunch. There’s Bloodies with dumplings, shrimp, chips, bacon and every other extravagant garnish you could imagine. It’s all made even better by local cheese vendors, live music, food and competitions. If Bloody Marys are your jam, put this festival on your radar.
Jackson’s Agriculture and Forestry Museum will host what’s informally known as the “largest whisky tasting in the South” on March 24. At Kindred Spirits, you get to run your own whiskey tasting of Irish and Scottish whisky, aided by expert staff. Sample, enjoy, repeat.
The Midwest’s best bartenders will gather at Paris of the Plains in Kansas City in September to talk business, run classes and, of course, celebrate the region’s cocktail scene with jazz era flair. Some of the top bartenders in the industry like Pam Wiznitzer, Don Lee and Dale Degroff attended last year. There’s no Eiffel Tower, but the many cocktails more than make up for it.
Montana: Tap Into Montana on April 7 in Livingston
For one week, Livingston will be taken over by craft beer. The party culminates in the Tap Into Montana Brew Fest, or “the ultimate celebration of Montana craft beer.” The whole town is getting into the act with events like Art on Tap, Yoga at the Brewery, Beer Trivia, and Beer and Cheese Pairings events.
Nebraska: Sip Nebraska on May 11-12 in Ashland
All things Nebraska alcohol will be represented at Sip Nebraska. Whether you’re a wine lover, craft beer drinker or spirits fan, there’s something for you. Plus all the live music, educational sessions, food and crafts. If you’re in Nebraska and you’re not welcoming spring with a celebration of the state’s food and beverage industry, are you even welcoming spring?
Las Vegas is more than casinos and tacky theme bars, and For the Love of Cocktails proves it. More than 1,500 cocktail enthusiasts from around the U.S. gather in Sin City to create and drink innovative libations. The event supports the Helen David Bartender Relief Fund, which honors the eponymous bar owner who died of breast cancer. Drink good, feel good.
Bacon and beer belong together, and this event delivers both. In its third year, the one-day celebration of savory bacon and craft beer has perfected the art of eating well while drinking well. There are even local brewers putting out beers and ciders created especially for the event.
Beer and music go together like tequila and lime. The Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival has been running for 13 years, and was voted one of the best beer festivals in the U.S. by USA Today readers. More than 150 breweries will pour some 1,000 different beers while Pepper, The Descendents and The Mighty Mighty play on stage and Atlantic City restaurants dish out quality food.
Dale DeGroff, King Cocktail himself, and his wife Jill praised the Cocktails & Culture Festival as the way to find food, music and art in new Mexico, and to “become acquainted with the talented and enthusiastic bar community there.” And there’s tacos. Need we say more?
New York: Whiskey Feast, date TBA, in New York City
There are many drinking events and venues in New York City, but few match the rooftop filled with whiskey, cocktails and food that is Whiskey Feast. Last year, the event was held in November and featured seasonal food and music along with the whiskey and cocktails. It was the perfect way to fall into the colder months. Plus there was a doughnut wall—as in a wall filled with doughnuts, which doesn’t have anything to do with drinking other than it’s something you need to be near when drinking.
North Carolina has a lot to celebrate when it comes to food and drink. It has one of the most vibrant craft beer scenes in the country, and the barbecue is hard to beat. The Wilmington Wine and Food Festival brings everything together with hundreds of wine and beer options, food from food trucks and local restaurants, and industry professionals ready to explain to you why you will fall in love with North Carolina’s drinking culture with every sip.
How many different types of bacon can you name? Go to Bernie’s Bacon and Beer Festival, and you’ll learn there’s so much more to the wonderful world of bacon, as well as what wine, beer and spirits go with each of the 20-plus different bacon samples. Live music, a fitting mechanical pig that you can ride, and a bacon eating contest round out the festival, making it the best thing in North Dakota.
It’s all Ohio, all the time at the Refined Festival. Only alcohol made in Ohio makes the cut, and the event gives festival-goers a chance to see all of the wine, beer and spirits made in the state. The festival revolves around five interactive bars sponsored by brands like Hocking Hills Moonshine and Seventh Son Brewing, with special setups like the Buckeye Vodka pop culture bar and the BMW mocktail bar for those not drinking.
Oklahoma: The Hop Jam, date TBA, in Tulsa
As the name suggests, Hop Jam centers around hoppy beers and jamming music, but it’s so much more. The area’s largest craft beer and music festival bills itself as “more than a beer festival, more than a music festival — it is a chance to celebrate our community, perched beneath the Tulsa skyline.” Now in its fifth year, the beer-centric jam fest promises to bring the party to Tulsa once again.
Oregon: Tiki Kon on July 13-15 in Portland
You’ll quickly forget that Portland’s annual average high temperature is 63 degrees Fahrenheit as soon as you walk into Tiki Kon. The over-the-top festival is described as “a weekend celebration of exotic tropical destinations and the tiki bars, cocktails, art, music and fashions they inspire.” Grab your Hawaiian shirts and get there.
Life is too short not to drink local beer, wine and cocktails in the iconic Phillies baseball stadium. The city’s largest drinking festival treats guests to drinks, food and live entertainment. And it’s held in a giant baseball stadium, meaning you have a chance to walk the bases, get some good photos for the ‘gram and soak in the ballpark in a whole new way.
Rhode Island: Bacon and Beer Fest on June 10 in Providence
Some festivals feature bacon, some feature beer, and a few feature both. Only Rhode Island’s Bacon and Beer Fest features a competition pitting 25 restaurants’ custom bacon-inspired dishes and craft beer pairings, though. Live music, games, and plenty of bacon and beer outside the competition round out the afternoon.
It’d be easy to get overwhelmed at The Great American Whiskey Fair. With 100 distilleries showing more than 500 different whiskeys from every state in the U.S. and four other countries, it’s a lot to take in. It’s also something you don’t want to miss if you’re in the area and love to geek out about good whiskey (and whisky) with people who love the spirit just as much as you do.
A taste of the good life comes to the small mountain town of Rapid City in the form of a whiskey festival. Connoisseurs, enthusiasts and whiskey lovers of all types are invited to gather in the concert hall in downtown Rapid City for hors d’oeuvres and more than 50 bourbon, scotch and other whiskey choices.
Whiskey fuels Nashville’s Music Row, and the best of the best whiskey in the state can fuel your night there as well at the Nashville Whiskey Festival. Distillers and brand reps will be on hand to talk to you about the many whiskeys there to try (plus moonshine, tequila, gin, rum and tequila). Last year featured Buffalo Trace and Pappy Van Winkle.
This is the fiesta to end all fiestas and keep Austin weird. More than 40 tequila brands, countless taco trucks and your favorite Mexican beer companies will gather in one place to celebrate the glory that is eating tacos and drinking tequila. And, as if there needed to be more of a reason to go, there will be live lucha libre and mariachi entertainment.
Utah: Eat Drink SLC, date TBA, in Salt Lake City
Utah isn’t exactly known for its drinking scene, but Eat Drink SLC is out to change that. It started with the mission to build recognition for Salt Lake’s food and drinks, raise awareness for local producers and donate to nonprofits. International wines, locally made spirits, beer and food at Eat Drink SLC prove that the state is becoming a destination for those with good taste.
Vermont is a craft beer mecca. The state’s many brewers are at the forefront of the craft beer movement, and the Vermont Brewers Festival highlights all the good people making it happen every day. It’s not just the beer though; the event is held by Lake Champlain overlooking the Adirondack Mountains, because good beer tastes all the better with good views.
Virginia: Virginia Wine Expo on February 27-March 4 in Richmond Thomas Jefferson dreamed of a day when America’s wine would match the best in Europe. He probably could never have imagined the multi-day festival of wine, beer and spirits (all made in his home state of Virginia) that met his dream and more. Celebrate everything Richmond and everything Virginia in the most tasteful way.
Washington: Rum Festival in September in Seattle
The Rum Lab, a creative industry that’s all about rum, is putting on the Seattle Rum Festival for the first time this year. The group has run rum events in Puerto Rico, California, New York and the Midwest, and now the Pacific Northwest gets a taste. No matter who you are—from an industry insider to a casual rum consuming tourist—the Rum Festival will bring joy to your heart.
West Virginia: Foam at the Dome on May 12 in Charleston
You might not know what we’re talking about when we write “foam” and “dome,” (the foam comes from the beer and the dome refers to the University of Charleston’s Laidley Field) but you need to go if you’re in West Virginia. The Dome will be rocking, filled with more than 60 breweries, 10 restaurant vendors and 20 artisans.
Wisconsinites hold Old Fashioneds in special regard. But unlike the whiskey Old Fashioned the rest of us know and love, their version uses brandy. The Old Fashioned Fest puts the two styles to the test inside the Garage at the Harley-Davidson Museum, plus lets festival goers sample classic and innovative takes on the drink.
If you think you know apres ski but haven’t been to Jackson Hole, then you don’t know apres ski. Located in the Teton Village in the mountains, the Winter Fest (and the summer fest later in the year) feature the best winemakers and cocktail and beer experts right next to the slopes, which you should definitely hit before winter comes to an end.