Breweries! Kegs! Tents! Tables! Food! BEER! All in one place!!
Those are some of our favorite things, and if they’re all in one place odds are it’s a beer festival. With the proliferation of craft beer has followed an explosion in beer festivals. To be clear, that’s not the same as a craft beer festival even if many of the offerings skew that way. That’s why we’re here, though, to help you find the best festivals with the best bang for your buck. Our focus will be on events hosted (and attended) by brewers, and a few select others with sterling reputations or carefully curated lists. Many of these festivals are ones we’ve attended in the past and/or plan to attend this year. Where possible, we’ll try to highlight a few stand out breweries confirmed to be in attendance who may be a bit harder to find in your typical rotating tap selections.
We intend to keep this list open throughout the next few months as new festivals are announced, lineups are firmed, and tickets fall into the hands of scalpers. Consider this the VBR Better Guide to Beer Festivals, Spring-Summer 2016 edition!
First Update: Brewer’s Ball Cville added! Thanks for the heads up Devils Backbone!
Second Update: Mad Fox notables added.
Capitol City Brewing Company Spring Beer Fest
Date: April 30, 2016
Location: Arlington, VA
Breweries: At least 35
Why You Should Care: Cap City is among the graybeards of Virginia brewing, and their location in the Arlington neighborhood of Shirlington makes for one of the classiest festival settings in the Commonwealth. Past iterations of their events aren’t necessarily as diverse, but the crowds vote with their tasting glasses for these as the overall value is second to very few. The decent entry price gets you up to 7 hours of revelry, and the central location means you can take breaks among the food stalls or hop into one of Shirlington’s many restaurants for heartier fare. This will be our first year attending the Spring Beer Fest.
Don’t Miss: Mustang Sally (Chantilly, VA), James River (Scottsville, VA)
The Mariners’ Craft Beer Festival
Date: May 1, 2016
Location: Newport News, VA
Cost: $35 in advance, $45 same day for 20 tasting tickets
Why You Should Care: It’s small, but there’s a lot of VA love to be had. Both Hamilton and I are from the area directly around the Mariners’ Museum (I even played select soccer just across the street on several occasions), and this was one of the first events we ever did for VBR. You’ll be well-covered for the best of the medium-sized breweries from VA Beach on up to Richmond. As we said back at the beginning, a lot of the appeal for this event comes as a sort of kickoff to the festival season. And the added “Cask Off” featuring unique firkins from participating breweries is a highlight of the afternoon. VBR will be there again this year with the scoop.
Don’t Miss: Commonwealth (Virginia Beach, VA), Center of the Universe (Ashland, VA)
Mad Fox Spring Bock Festival
Date: May 14, 2016
Location: Falls Church, VA
Cost: $25 for General Admission (includes 6 beer tickets), $60 for VIP (10 beer tickets + unlimited food)
Why You Should Care: Mad Fox’s themed festivals are one of the best ways for enthusiasts to compare beer styles from a variety of brewers all in one setting. Spring Bock is our favorite iteration, and Mad Fox always impresses with the on-site food. Games and a bluegrass band almost always make an appearance at Mad Fox events, too. This was among the first events we covered, and we’ll return this year to see how it’s evolved!
Don’t Miss: DC Brau worked with homebrewers and the Heurich House to resurrect Heurich’s Lager, an historic pre-Prohibition beer which will be making its Commonwealth debut at the Spring Bock Festival. It’s only previously been available on one other occasion, and this is your chance to try it out before it gets a wide release this year! You’ll also get to compare the American Bock variants to German stalwarts Ayinger and Schloss Eggenberg, if bragging rights are your thing. The full list is on twitter.
Know Good Beer
Date: May 14, 2016
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Cost: $32 for General Admission (includes 6 beer tickets), $60 for VIP (10 beer tickets + unlimited food)
Why You Should Care: A semi-annual event that has even challenged beer lovers to show up for a Siberian-themed festival, Know Good Beer…knows its stuff. You’ll get plenty of Cville and RVA brewers in attendance, and if you’re a West Coast freak you’ll also find newcomers to the VA scene Stone and Green Flash to keep you company (though isn’t that strange to think of their operations as “local” these days?) The festival itself won’t be where one might typically think in Charlottesville, with the IX Art Park just off the Downtown Mall providing the locale.
Don’t Miss: Red Beard (Staunton, VA), Pro Re Nata (Crozet, VA)
Date: June 3-4, 2016
Location: Washington, DC
Cost: $140 for General Admission, $155 with an additional Salon ticket
Why You Should Care: Hosted by the Brewers Association, SAVOR is one of the preeminent annual craft beer festivals in the country, and in past years it has sold out in mere hours. As has been noted by The Washington Post, among others, this year saw a few Salons sell out within minutes but as of late April some of the larger Salons and a good deal of GA tickets are still available. This will be VBR’s first year in attendance, and we’ll be there in force!
Don’t Miss: Urban Chestnut (St. Louis, MO), Ninkasi (Eugene, OR), Lewis & Clark (Helena, MT), Austin Beerworks (Austin, TX)
Brewer’s Ball Cville
Date: June 9, 2016
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Cost: $75 (all inclusive)
Breweries: 10 or more from Charlottesville and the surrounding area
Why You Should Care: This inaugural event is a charity festival supporting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. So if everything seems steep, that’s because proceeds are going to a good cause…and “colorful cocktail attire” is even suggested. For the price of admission you’ll get not only tastings but also full pours and plates full of BBQ and gourmet catering. If you’ve got this Thursday evening open (and want to help a cause with deep roots among the Cville community) it appears to be a worthy festival to check out!
Americana Beer Festival
Date: June 11, 2016
Location: Leesburg, VA
Cost: $45 GA (unlimited tastings)/$100 VIP (lounges, cask ales, and other goodies)
Why You Should Care: This is a charity festival benefiting combat veterans, and it also has a bit larger scope than you may be used to. Sure, there will be bands and food trucks galore, but among the other stages ringing the event will include brewing demos and games. There’s also a craft soda garden of all things. This looks to be an exceptional list of VA and regional breweries/cideries, and the recommendations we have are really only the first among many. A bonus if you’re not interested in having kids running around, this is also a 21+ only event. The organizers have stressed this so if you do have little ones that go with you everywhere make sure you plan accordingly for this event. We’re going to try to make an appearance, so check back soon for something special!
Don’t Miss: Crooked Run (Leesburg, VA), Wasserhund (Virginia Beach, VA), Quattro Goomba’s (Aldie, VA), Dirt Farm (Bluemont, VA)
NoVA Summer Brewfest
Date: June 18-19, 2016
Location: Manassas, VA
Cost: $20 GA (6 tasting tickets, $2 each add’l tasting)/$65 VIP (early Saturday entry and unlimited samples)
Why You Should Care: Another event hosted by the team at Mad Fox, the NoVA Brewfest series brings more than just beer to the table, as local wineries, arts and crafts, and specialty vendors all to one place. One of the biggest festivals in the area, it typically draws 5,000-6,000 attendees. While you’re there, you can also challenge yourself in the cornhole tournament and attend some BEER SCIENCE lessons in the BrewED tent. Even with all this going on, the Brewfest is a family friendly event with several kid-appropriate activities and areas set aside just for the little ones.
Don’t Miss: Adventure/Blue & Gray (Fredericksburg, VA), Honor (HQs in Chantilly, VA), Tin Cannon (Gainesville, VA)
Capital Ale House National Beer Expo
Date: July 13-16, 2016
Location: Richmond, VA
Cost: $45 GA/$70 VIP for tasting, Seminars $15 each, $20-$80 for food pairing events
Why You Should Care: If you are looking for a true blend of Virginia and National craft beer selections, the main event on Saturday is one of the best in Virginia. This multi-day event hosted by Capital Ale House and All About Beer Magazine has parties and food outings as well as seminars, culminating is the who’s who expo on the Saturday the 16th. We’ve done the VIP and the price is one of the best around.
Don’t Miss: Maine (Portland, ME), Foothills (Winston-Salem, NC), Escutcheon (Winchester, VA), Sunken City (Smith Mountain Lake, VA)
Date: August 13, 2016
Location: Roanoke, VA
Cost: $35 for admission + 20 tasting tickets
Why You Should Care: One of the older festivals in the Commonwealth, 2016 will be Microfestivus’ 19th year. While more than a few national (and even macro) breweries make a presence, there is also a heavy emphasis on RVA and SWVA breweries which you really won’t find elsewhere. Many of VBR’s friends keep imploring us to make our way out there, too.
Don’t Miss: Shooting Creek (Floyd, VA), Big Lick (Roanoke, VA)
Virginia Craft Brewers Festival
Date: Late August 2016
Location: Roseland, VA
Cost: $40 for General Admission, $60 for VIP (early entry, specialty beer tasting lounge)
Why You Should Care: Whatever you may think of Devils Backbone at this point, the annual awards for Commonwealth brewers are handed out at the end of the day here at their Basecamp location. As a result, if you aren’t in attendance you’re likely to find a skeleton staff at your local brewery as they’re all down at VCBF pouring your samples instead! The event is also a neat opportunity to get a preview of a good number of Fall seasonals.
Don’t Miss: The VIP package. There’s simply no other way to even try to make a dent in what’s the deepest list of VA breweries assembled on an annual basis.
Top of the Hops
Date: Late September 2016
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Cost: $40-$50 for GA (unlimited samples), $80 for VIP (specialty beer tasting lounge, food from Sedona Taphouse)
Why You Should Care: No one knows how good UVa football will be, even under new leadership. Lots of good beer in a great setting can go a long way towards solving one’s woes as we found out when attending this event last year. In the case of Top of the Hops, #drinklocal and general #craftbeer fans will all find something to like even though this is a group which puts on similar festivals across the country. The setting at the nTelos Pavilion is fairly iconic in terms of Charlottesville, so even if you get bored there are plenty of shops and restaurants in which to bide one’s time. That’s not to mention the Devils Backbone Brew University, Beer Pairing, and Cooking with Beer seminars. The exceptional amount of beer suggests the need to divert one’s attention is unlikely.
Don’t Miss: Beer Hound (Culpeper, VA), Apocalypse (Lynchburg, VA)