Latvia Beerfest

Three days of enjoying cold brews in the “Paris of the East”

For those that happen to be traveling the Baltic region this summer, there’s a drinking festival that you might not want to miss.  It’s the Latvia Beerfest and it is three days of beer, music and entertainment during the warm summer in this under appreciated country.  It takes place in late May of every year, this time falling from the 24th to the 26th.

The host of this fun festival is the country’s capital of Riga, a city considered so beautiful that it is often referred to as the “Paris of the East.”  The festival itself takes place in the center of the city, in the Vermanes Garden, a picturesque and beautiful park.  This event has only been going on for a short time, but it is already bringing in more than 20,000 people on some days and keeps expanding.  The organizers, dedicated to making it bigger and better every year, do their best to keep up with the demand by providing more beer and more activities.

First and foremost, the festival has its beer.  More than 50 different brews are available.  Many of them are Latvian creations, but they bring in the best of some foreign beers as well.  In one special tent, a blind tasting event takes place.  This contest pits 16 of the festival’s best against each other and lets the guests be the judges.

In addition to the drinking, each day is filled with live music concerts.  Mostly the music is of the rock, pop or country variety and performed by some of the best musicians that Latvia has to offer.  Other entertainment consists of various strong man competitions, games for adults and kids and several other contests.  And, naturally, there is plenty of food to enjoy, put together by some of the best chefs both local and foreign.

If you’re passing through in May, stop by and spend a day or two at the Latvia Beerfest and try a good sampling of what Latvia brews up.  When you’re done drinking for the day, don’t neglect taking a look around the city itself and exploring the beauty that has people comparing it to Paris.

Canberra Craft Beer Festival

A smaller tasting event on the southeastern coast of Australia

Those traveling in the Southeastern region of Australia come this April may find it worth their while to take some time out and stop by for an Australian celebration of quality craft beers.  The Canberra Craft Beer Festival, taking place in none-other-than Canberra, is a fairly new April tradition that looks like it may be sticking around for some time.

Previously known as the National Capital Craft Beer Festival, this event was first organized in 2008.  It was put together by the Schwartz Family Company, a group of folks dedicated to supporting the craft beer industry and bringing the wonderful taste of independently manufactured brews to the public.

Nowadays, more than 17 breweries arrive each year to show off what they have to offer.  They bring around 80 beers and ciders in total - not the biggest selection you’ll find at a craft beer event, but plenty enough to keep you satisfied throughout the day.

In addition to the drinking mainstay, there are other things to take part in while at the Canberra festival.  Live local bands perform all day and guest speakers step up to inform audiences on many details of the industry.  There are some educational events, such as beer and food matching workshops, and some “sporting” events, such as the Brewers Table Tennis Championship.  There’s even some stuff for the kids to do while the adults refill their tasting cups.

This year the festival takes place on April 13th and it’s relatively cheap.  It will only cost you $35 at the door (or $25 in advance) and you receive 10 tasting tickets along with your souvenir tasting cup.  Additional tasting tickets run $1 each.  And everything at Canberra Craft Beer Festival is done in the name of charity, helping a children’s cancer research center, so you can feel good about spending your money to imbibe.  

Great Taste of the Midwest

One of the longest running craft beer festivals in North America.

Yet another great beer festival takes place right in the heart of America’s Midwest.  It’s called the Great Taste of the Midwest and, despite its increasing popularity, remains an exclusive one-day event that is dedicated to bringing its attendees samples of the best brews that the region has to offer. 

It takes place on the second Saturday in August of each year in the town of Madison, Wisconsin - the self-proclaimed beer capital of the Midwest - and lasts from around 1 p.m. until 6 p.m., giving you just a few short hours to down as much excellent craft beer as possible.  This event has been going on since 1986 and now holds the prestigious title of being the second longest-running craft beer festival in North America.

If you manage to secure one of the coveted tickets to Great Taste of the Midwest, you’ll have plenty to look forward to.  Nearly 150 breweries came by to show off their stuff last year and with each year that number increases.  They serve up more than 500 different varieties of craft beers of all types and flavors.  These offerings come in from Wisconsin as well as eight other states in the Midwest.  They are served out of five huge tents and there is a sixth tent as well that is entirely devoted to serving cask ales.

In addition to the drinking, there’s a chocolate and beer pairing presentation as well as plenty of food and music for people to enjoy.  Both the attendees and the employees alike tend to show up in costume, so expect some strange attire.

Being as how it’s still a smaller festival, Great Taste of the Midwest doesn’t use the token system, instead charging a flat $50.  They give you your souvenir glass (a full pint) and let you loose in the tents on a race to try as many of the brews as possible in the five hours you have.

This event is a great relaxing drinking environment that promises some remarkable brews every year.  Unfortunately, it’s extremely popular and they only allow 6000 tickets to be sold for each occasion, so if you want to give it a try, best to grab some up quickly.

Hastings Beer and Music Festival

A local event dedicated to showcasing the best of the Hastings region.

One city in England has taken it upon themselves to organize a festival that is focused right at the heart of their local culture.  The Hastings Beer and Music Festival is a celebration of two things that make the world a better place to live and this city makes sure that you know that everything they have to offer is home-grown.  Taking place in July of this year, the festival will have four sessions taking place over the course of its two day run.

The first festival started up small in 1981, but has grown in popularity over the years.  Now, many people from the surrounding regions come to take part and the city sees more than 10,000 visitors during the event.  As the festival has grown, the organizers’ commitment to making it better each year has grown along with it.

Visitors to the Hastings Beer and Music Festival can expect to find plenty of beers on tap, almost all locally produced.  There is also a fair selection of ciders and wine, again mostly local.  Food is another big part, as the city showcases regional dishes done up by its local chefs.  And to highlight the music part of the festival, local bands come in to perform, some of them names that have made themselves famous over the years and return to help out.

All the revenue from this event goes to charity, so you can eat and drink until you’re near to bursting and not feel guilty because it’s in the name of a good cause.  The Hastings Beer and Music Festival is a great way to enjoy the local character of Hastings as well as partake of some delicious food and drink.  If you want to see England, make sure to stop through and check out the celebration and all it has to offer.

Bangkok’s Thai Beer Festival

Thai food and plenty of beer for more than two months - is there anything better?

The Thai Beer Festival is more than just your standard collection of tents and drinking halls, serving out a variety of beer for people to enjoy while they visit.  It’s a huge event that takes place all over the country, though the biggest and the best is by far the event in Bangkok.  Some think of it as the Thai equivalent of the German Oktoberfest and it’s even acquired the name of Novemberfest to solidify this connection.  Starting out in late October, the festival continues all through November and December and into mid-January.

All sorts of places in the city celebrate this festival by offering their own drinking tables.  Malls, the middle of streets and more each host their own part of the event.  There are a plethora of beer gardens, though the best location is definitely right in front of Bangkok’s World Trade Center.  The event has become so popular over the years that it attracts thousands of people daily and even draws in many celebrities.

When you attend the Thai Beer Festival, you’ll have the opportunity to try beers from all over the world.  There are plenty of Thai breweries bringing what they have to offer to the festival, as well as countless brands of more well-known beer coming in from other countries.  One of the fun and informal events that takes place during the festival are the beer games, whereby people use unique methods to down their beer, racing on to the next.  Perhaps not the best way to enjoy a brew, but certainly a good way to throw a party.

In addition to the drinking, visitors can find several things to occupy their time.  There is live entertainment at many of the drinking venues, including dancing, music, light shows, cultural performances and, of course, a massive amount of amazing Thai food.  In fact, aside from the beer, the food is the biggest focus of the festival and those that come for the beer can also expect some seriously good eating.

If you’re a lover of beer, the Thai Beer Festival is a great place to be.  If you happen to be a lover of both beer and Thai food, there’s no place better on the planet to go to enjoy the best of both.  It is a celebration of beer and food like few others and its popularity attests to its greatness.

Stockholm’s Beer and Whisky Festival

Thousands of different varieties of beer, whisky and spirits all in one place

 

The capital of Sweden, Stockholm has the honor of being home to one of the world’s largest and most prestigious drink-oriented events.  It’s the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival, a celebration of Sweden’s growing passion with the two drinks.  Many don’t know, but Sweden is quickly increasing their numbers of distilleries and breweries and is likely to be taking the beer and whisky world by storm in the near future.  This festival gives one the opportunity to check out all these drinks early and in one location.

The festival takes place in two giant halls over the course of two weekends.  Tens-of-thousands of people show up each year to sample an average of more than 15,000 different types of beer, whisky and other spirits.  Though whisky and beer are certainly the highlight of the event, there is also the opportunity to sample many offerings of cognac, champagne, cider and more.

The beer selection is like a dream come true.  There are craft beers from all over the world, many of which most people have never even heard of but plenty that are widely known.  There are fine whiskies of both local and international origins.  The best of the best is brought together under two roofs and one would find themselves hard-pressed to sample everything that the festival has on tap, even if attending every day of both weekends.  These masterpieces of alcohol are served up by experts in their respective fields.  They can let a visitor know anything they would want to about the brand and about the industry in general.  They’re also usually willing to talk the trade with you if you have the time to listen.

In addition, the festival has all the other offerings one would expect from an event of this type.  There are tasting events for both experts and beginners, seminars to teach more about the many aspects of these drinks, live music throughout the festival and lots of food from all over the world.

Both experts trying to deepen their knowledge and beginners just starting their journey will find something to learn here.  Unfortunately, next year’s festival is still a ways away, being held during the weekends of September 29th to October 8th.  For those looking to expand their knowledge of beer, whisky and other alcohols, this festival is a must.  

Stone Brewing Company

Stone Smoked Porter

I was on a beer diet recently. The diet worked, but it didn’t make my taste buds happy; I drank a lot of lagers because of their low-calorie content. Here’s a simple, but extremely useful formula I devised to show the results of my taste tests for those who are more mathematically inclined. 

 

a = b

 

The formula is not meant to confuse fans of the Pythagorian theorem, which I believe is a squared + b squared = c squared and meant to describe triangles and not fine beers. I am not here to argue with mathematicians. Instead, I’m here to express myself in terms that more people can understand. For those who are into words, like me, I have inserted a few of my opinions. You can choose to read them or not. 

 

Lagers = Low Calorie un-Delicious Beer

 

 If memory serves me correctly, Lucky was a lager, as was Schlitz. My beer diet pretty much dated me back to my college drinking choices. But I’ve quit my beer diet forever. My new habit that I intend to start is to drink good premium beers and wines to make my mouth happy. 

 

Today’s beer choice was the Stone Smoked Porter. 

 

Stone Smoked Porter = Delicious

 

The Stone Smoked Porter was a little big taste of delicious in my mouth. I like chocolate chip cookies, so I selected the Vanilla Bean-flavored variety as my option. For a Porter, the Stone Smoked Porter is exceptionally light-tasting. The hint of vanilla is ever-so-light, but ever-so-present. 

 

Those expecting the Stone Smoked Porter to taste like chocolate-chip cookies might be a little disappointed. Although I like chocolate chip cookies, I like beer, too and the Stone Smoked Porter tasted much more like a Porter that was slightly smoked than anything cooked with vanilla. That does not mean that it would not pair nicely with chocolate chip cookies or even holiday cookies since the season happens to be upon us. 

 

The hard part, of course, is that the porters have a higher calorie count. What’s a girl to do? Can I limit myself to two porters? Does anyone even know how many calories the Stone Porter has? I don’t want to get obese just because of my new passion for the Stone Smoked Porter. 

 

Please help me. And if you have other beer suggestions for me to try and blog about, please let me know. The Lucky Lager diet almost killed me. 

Montreal’s Modial de la Biere

What may be the most important international beer festival in North America.

If you listen to the hype, the Modial de la Biere, or “World of Beer” in Montreal is the most important international beer festival across all of North America.  This grand festival celebrating beer of all types and from all origins takes place at Windsor Station and Courtyard - a shut down railway station - each year during late May and early June.

 

At the Modial de la Biere, one will find the best brews from all over the world and plenty of them.  There is a seemingly endless variety of beer to try, some countries offering literally hundreds of different options.  In addition, there are education programs for those that want to learn more. 

There are brewers’ conferences, classes to teach people all about the many aspects of beer and brewing and workshops that show people how to do anything from properly judging beer to what brew goes the best with what foods.  This festival is set up to benefit both the hardcore connoisseur that knows most of it already and the amateur just getting their feet wet in the world of quality beers. 

It’s free to get into the festival, but the drinking can get a little pricey.  They charge $1 for each coupon and every three-to-four-ounce tasting can cost anywhere from two to six tickets.  Paying six bucks for a tiny taste may not be everyone’s idea of a good party, but considering the variety it can be a good way to try many beers in a short period of time.

This year the Modial de la Biere runs from Wednesday, May 29th to Saturday, June 2nd.  If you want to get a feel for some of the best beers from all over the world, this is a good place to start on any beer-lover’s journey.

The Cape Town Festival of Beer

The largest beer festival in the southern hemisphere and the perfect excuse to visit South Africa.

Cape Town Festival of Beer is a celebration that takes place at the end of each November in Green Point, Cape Town, South Africa.  And while this year’s event is right now passing you by, it happens annually, so there’s always a chance to get down there sometime in the future. 

Cape Town’s festival happens to hold the distinction of being the largest beer festival in South Africa and, in fact, the entirety of the southern hemisphere.  Getting down to this amazingly beautiful country can let you combine a vacation with three days of drinking and, like all combinations of beer and relaxation, makes for a great getaway.

 

During the event, more than 150 varieties of beer will be available for you to sample.  They come from around 50 different breweries, both local and international, and the selection includes some limited edition brews that are put together specifically for the festival and thus can be found nowhere else.

In addition to the drinking are the prerequisite piles of food, plenty of music and, unique perhaps to this South African beer event, rugby matches.  That could have something to do with the country’s love of rugby, or it could be because the festival takes place at a rugby club - who knows?  There are also raffles, a foosball tournament, beer judging competitions and a market to buy all your much-needed beer merchandise.  There is even a child-specific entertainment area with staff available to watch your kids for a bit while you go out and partake in a more “adult” manner.

One thing that makes the Cape Town event perfect for those new to beer festivals is that they offer guided tours.  They make sure that those new to the festival get the best experience, introducing them to the brewers, letting them try a wide variety of beers and even allowing their charges to take part in some blind tastings.

If you happen to have some time free in November, take a jaunt down to South Africa and enjoy both the country and the plethora of drink.  If you’re travelling in a big group, check out some of the available packages to save some cash and get access to some of the more privileged events.

Manchester’s National Winter Ales Festival

A festival devoted to the unique beers that can only be found with the winter season.

Sometimes referred to as the winter version of the famous Great British Beer Festival, the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester is an event that focuses on bringing the best of seasonal brews to the people.  It is put together by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) with the purpose of celebrating a long-standing tradition of winter ales, ciders, perries and more.

 

This event lasts for four days, from Wednesday to Saturday, and takes place in January of each year.  It has been going on for more than 10 years, 2013 celebrating the 12th event in its history.  Since its beginnings, the National Winter Ales Festival has grown to where it now brings in more than 10,000 people over the course of the celebration.

More than 300 varieties of both local and foreign brews will be on tap at the festival.  In addition to the drink, there is plenty of food to enjoy, primarily English and Indian cuisine.  There are also many varieties of entertainment to keep attendees busy, from pub games to live music to fancy dress parties.  For those that feel like bringing home a souvenir, there is a crafts market selling a wide variety of beer-related items.

The National Winter Ales Festival is also considered a family event, despite the focus on alcohol.  A special family area is available for those who want to bring the kids and don’t feel like having them sit quietly by while pounding back pint after pint.

This event presents the perfect opportunity to experience this winter brewing tradition and try dozens of beers that one might never have a chance to partake of otherwise.  What’s more, it’s a festival still in the making and the organizers work harder and harder each year to surpass the one before it, taking input from visitors and making changes to improve the overall experience.

This year, National Winter Ales Festival is running from January 23rd to the 26th, so if you want to get in on the festivities, better start planning that vacation now and make sure it includes a stop in Manchester.

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