FEATURE // Summer Festival Guide


15 salacious sun-soaked festivals

By Chad Walsh and Megan Flynn

Photograph by Sylvan Magnus

Whether you live on the West Coast, are visiting from afar, or are just looking for something fun to do this summer, we’ve compiled your complete guide to this summer’s best fests including where to eat, drink, and stay. The first rule: The fest must contain beer. Second, the event must be in an awesome location. Third, the fun factor has to be sky high.

So, quit scratching your head trying to map out your summer plans—we’ve spelled them out for you. From the Northwest’s best indie music festivals (complete with craft beer), to California’s tastiest barbecue enjoyed on the banks of the Russian River, to festivals for a cause in the Bay Area, there’s bound to be at least one fest that pushes all of your buttons (in a good way). Check out our vital festival Do’s and Don’ts and heed warnings and tips from the pros, like picking a beer and sticking with it or arriving early to ensure you’ll get to taste the most interesting beers and (hopefully) avoid the lines. See you there!

1. Washington Brewers Festival

Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA
June 14–16 /

Is your dad so stubborn about his Coors Light loyalty that it’s all but impossible to get him to even try something that’s not yellow and fizzy? Well, wish him a happy Father’s Day by procuring him a ticket to this Father’s Day weekend beer festival where he and 18,000 others can try as many as 200 pours crafted by brewers from the Evergreen State. Show him you really care by bringing him along for the festival’s Friday night opener, so that he can sample beers brewed specifically for this event.

Eat Celtic Bayou (7281 W Lake Sammamish Parkway NE, 425.869.5933)

Stay The Redmond Inn (17601 Redmond Way, 425.883.4900)

Drink The whole point of attending a beer festival is to try those things you normally don’t find in market coolers or on tap at your local pub. So get in line either Saturday or Sunday and try a little something from the “buzz cart,” where small-batch, rare, cask, and infused beers will be swapped out several times a day.

2. Monterey Beer Festival

Monterey Fairgrounds, Monterey, CA
June 15 /

Head out to California’s central coast for stunning scenery and even better food and drink at this annual festival. With more than 80 beers and ciders to choose from, you’ll have a hard time trying them all.

Eat In the VIP area of the festival. Cannery Row Brewing Company is cooking up tasty morsels to pair
with beer.

Stay Portola Hotel & Spa
(2 Portola Plaza, 888.222.5851)

Drink Award-winning brews from Monterey’s first and only craft brewery, Peter B’s Brewpub. Brewmaster Kevin Clark will be on hand to guide you through a tasting.

3. Gorge Blues and Brews Festival

Skamania County Fairgrounds, Stevenson, WA
June 21–22 /

For 20 years, Oregonians and Washingtonians have been spending their summer solstices camping in the Gorge, listening to blues music, and drinking craft beer. This year, nine bands will take the stage, including Gin Creek, Suburban Slim, The Stacy Jones Band, and The Fat Tones. A half-dozen winemakers will pour reds, whites, and rosés, and folks from more than a dozen small, independent breweries (Breakside Brewery, Full Sail Brewing, Base Camp Brewing Company, and Fearless Brewing Company) will pour craft pints. Coolers aren’t allowed, but there are plenty of food vendors on hand to feed you summer fare, like Pirate Fish and Chips and Mr. Oinks BBQ. If you’re looking to kill time before the music starts, remember, you’ve got the entire Gorge to explore. So get your fill of hiking, kayaking, and windsurfing before the bands take stage. And to emphasize the point that you’re all indeed well-behaved adults who like good music and great beer, organizers have included in your price of admission commemorative glass glasses from which to quaff those pints, so say, “So long, plastic cups!”

Eat Besides their inventive beers, the folks at Walking Man Brewing (240 SW 1st St., 509.427.5520) are best known for their creatively topped thin-crust pizza pies. But surely you know that nothing pairs better with beer than chicken wings that have, themselves, been braised in beer.

Stay If you choose not to camp on the fairgrounds (you should), organizers have arranged for free shuttle services to ferry you to and from Skamania Lodge (1131 Skamania Lodge Way, 509.427.7700).

Drink Souring on IPAs? Craft brewers from Laht Neppur will be on hand pouring drafts of peach hefeweizen and strawberry cream ale.

4. Seattle International Beer Festival

Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion, Seattle, WA
July 5–7 /

Anyone can barbecue any time they please, so why spend your Independence Day weekend in the backyard tossing horseshoes when you could be celebrating beer from all over the world in the shadow of the Space Needle? Now in its 13th year, the SIBF features lots of regional craft brews, as well as live musical acts like The Haggis Brothers, who are this year’s closing headliner.

Eat The 5 Point Cafe (415 Cedar St., 206.448.9991)

Stay The Edgewater Hotel (2411 Alaskan Way, Pier 67, 206.728.7000)

Drink If you visit the Grande Beer Garden, you can knock back freshly brewed $3 pints of every craft brewer’s favorite beer, Pilsner Urquell.

5. The Breastfest

Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA
July 13 /

Founded as a way to help raise money for and support the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic (CMCC), a nonprofit clinic offering alternative medical treatments for low-income women diagnosed with cancer, this 13th annual event combines more than 50 breweries, local food, and live music for a good cause.

Eat Greens Restaurant for brunch (Fort Mason Center, Building A, 415.771.6222)

Stay Comfort Inn By the Bay (2775 Van Ness Ave., 415.928.5000)

Drink A pilsner from Social Kitchen & Brewery—beer doesn’t get any more crisp and refreshing than this.

6. String Summit

Horning’s Hideout, North Plains, OR
July 18–21 /

For 12 years, this bluegrass festival, located just north of Portland proper, has drawn crowds from all over the country. Maybe because it’s perennially hosted by bluegrass legends The Yonder Mountain String Band, which headlines three of four nights this year. Or maybe it’s because of the accompanying acts—this year, California’s Poor Man’s Whiskey will interpret Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon with banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. But the real reason you’re going is to hear all that music (and maybe drink all that beer) under the stars in an old grove of trees with 5,000 of your newest friends. Still, the festival does require a little homework, so before you go, read up on the Horning’s Hideaway rules. They’re plentiful, but reasonable.

Eat Lots of vendors will be on hand, including the meat-cheese-and-bread builders of Bunk Sandwiches and the breakfast specialists of Toast.

Stay String Summit is all about communal camping, so stake a good claim on which to pitch your tent. Plus, if you’re going to be hanging out drinking beer in the hot, hot sun, driving to a hotel in search of a room is a no-no. But if you’ve got your wits about you and you need a room in a pinch, you can always reserve one at the Ace Hotel (1022 SW Stark St., 503.228.2277) in downtown Portland.

Drink Ninkasi Brewing Company Clusterpluck Session Ale, a light, golden, small-batch ale, brewed in honor of this event.

7. Oregon Brewers Festival

Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Portland, OR
July 24–28 /

One of the country’s largest outdoor beer festivals features 82 craft breweries pouring 84 varieties of beer for 80,000 people over five days. Learn the ins and outs of making your own beer during homebrewing demonstrations, and then drink your future homebrew from the hand-carved wooden steins and glass-blown mugs sold by festival vendors.

Eat Henry’s Tavern (10 NW 12th Ave., 503.227.5320).

Stay The Crystal Hotel (303 SW 12th St., 503.972.2670)

Drink Smoked Helles, a collaboration between Widmer Brothers Brewing and Oregon’s oldest homebrewing club, the Oregon Brew Crew.

8. Twin Peaks Fest

North Bend, WA
August 2–4 /

North Bend is Twin Peaks and, since 1993, worshipers of David Lynch’s revolutionary TV series have been visiting the real town in order to tour Lynch’s fictional one. Why? Because it’s still the best TV show, ever.

Eat Cherry pie at Twede’s Cafe (Twin Peaks’ Double R Diner, 137 W North Bend Way, 425.831.5511)

Stay The Salish Lodge (Twin Peaks’ Great Northern Hotel, 6501 Railroad Ave. SE, in nearby Snoqualmie, 800.272.5474)

Drink Choose from one of eight rotating draft craft beers at the Fall City Roadhouse & Inn (Twin Peaks’ Roadhouse, 4200 Preston Fall City Rd. SE, in nearby Fall City, 425.222.4800)

9. Pickathon

Pendarvis Farm, Happy Valley, OR
August 2–4 /

Pickathon, in its 15th year, is the only music festival in the country that bans single-use plates, bottles, and flatware. In other words, you take out what you bring in. So compost what you can’t eat, and drink your beer from stainless steel pint glasses sold on-site. There are also beer gardens, communal camping, and, of course, plenty of great music. This year’s lineup includes Feist, Andrew Bird, and Kurt Vile & The Violators.

Eat Fuel up on craft foods at carts run by some of Portland’s finest restaurateurs, including Pine State Biscuits, Bunk Sandwiches, and Boke Bowl.

Stay On the farm, of course.

Drink Both Wandering Aengus Ciderworks and Hopworks Urban Brewery have special festival craft drafts in the works.

10. Whiteaker Block Party

The Whiteaker neighborhood, Eugene, OR
August 3 /

If you live in Eugene, you’re already hip to this daylong street party. But if you’re planning on making the drive this year, expect two or three blocks to be closed to car traffic but filled with revelry, vendors, and 30-plus bands taking up five different stages throughout the day. Stray off the beaten path, and you’ll no doubt stumble across other bands taking to impromptu “commando” stages in their own front yards.

Eat Izakaya Meiji Company (345 Van Buren St., 541.505.8804)

Stay The Valley River Inn (1000 Valley River Way, 541.743.1000)

Drink Ninkasi Brewing Company Ice 9, which is this year’s light and summery commemorative brew.

11. Mammoth Festival of Bluesapalooza

Sam’s Wood Site, Mammoth Lakes, CA
August 1–4 /

Escape to the woods for the 18th annual Bluesapalooza. With headliners like the multigenre songstress Joan Osborne and American blues singer and guitarist John Hammond, this music-meets-craft beer fest is sure to keep you equally entertained and hydrated. Situated in stunning Mammoth Lakes, California, you’ll be swaying to the sounds of more than 14 bands over three days while hanging out in this beautiful mountain resort located in the Eastern High Sierra near Yosemite National Park. Taste beer from more than 65 (mostly California) craft breweries including Mammoth Lake’s own Mammoth Brewing Company as well as Telegraph Brewing Company, The Bruery, 21st Amendment Brewery, and more. Be prepared to drink plenty of water, as you’ll be among the towering pines at 8,000 feet.

Eat Though they’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we recommend Toomey’s (6085 Minaret Rd, 760.924.4408) for breakfast after an evening of music and beer. Treat your taste buds to two of the fluffiest pancakes you’ve ever had, served with mascarpone and toasted coconut.

Stay Walking distance to the festival, the Bavarian-themed Alpenhof Lodge (6080 Minaret Road, 800.828.0371) offers a range of accommodation options as well as three on-site bars and restaurants. For a nightcap, hit up the Clocktower Cellar, which offers more than 150 whiskeys and 26 beers on draft.

Drink In the spirit of “fresh is best,” be sure to try the lineup of beers from local Mammoth Brewing Company—at the festival and the brewery—especially the crisp Golden Trout Pilsner and Epic IPA.

12. Everett Craft Beer Festival

Downtown Everett, WA
August 17 /

For the second year in a row, organizers of this upstart festival are closing down Hoyt Avenue so that you and nearly 4,000 of your fellow beer-lovers can roam the street and take in some sun while tasting 60 beers from 30 of Washington state’s craft brewers. However, this festival’s for the 21-and-over crowd, so leave the little ones with a sitter. And this restriction includes your dog, too, no matter how old he is in dog years.

Eat The Anchor Pub (1001 Hewitt Ave., 425.252.2288)

Stay Inn at Port Gardner (1700 W Marine View Dr., 425.252.6779)

Drink Expect something coffee infused, as festival organizers are inviting each brewer to make at least one special coffee beer to give this year’s festival a theme.

13. Russian River Beer Revival & BBQ Cookoff

Stumptown Brewery, Guerneville, CA
August 17 /

How many breweries can claim to have their own beach? Hosted by Stumptown Brewery and held on the banks of the Russian River, this rowdy party of beers and barbecue promises to quench your thirst and satiate your appetite. Taste beers from more than 30 craft breweries and savory barbecue from equally
as many purveyors.

Eat Barbecue!

Stay Boon Hotel & Spa (14711 Armstrong Woods Road, 707.869.2721)

Drink Rat Bastard Pale Ale from Stumptown Brewery is a balanced pale ale that will be a welcome sipper after the hop bombs at the festival.

14. Bend Brewfest

The Les Schwab Amphitheater, Bend, OR
August 15–17 /

Sip from as many as 140 beers brewed by 60 independent craft brewers. The festival’s family-friendly till 7 p.m., and dog-friendly, too, so long as you’re responsible. Plus, it all takes place in an open grassy area along the Deschutes River with a view of the Cascade Mountains.

Eat Deschutes Brewery Bend Public House (1044 NW Bond St., 541.382.9242)

Stay The Oxford Hotel (10 NW Minnesota Ave., 877.440.8436)

Drink Any of more than 60 adventurous, distinctive, one-time-only small-batch “Xtap” festival beers that will be swapped out every hour or two.

15. Hops in Humboldt

Rohner Park, Fortuna, CA
August 24 /

Who doesn’t love music and beer? At this 10th annual event benefitting multiple Humboldt community organizations like the police department, schools, and senior services, dance and drink your way through numerous brewery, craft, and food vendors. Be sure to cast your vote for the “Taster’s Choice” award—Six Rivers Brewery took the honor last year. Who’ll it be in 2013?

Eat Eel River Brewing Company (1777 Alamar Way, 707.725.2739)

Stay Tent camping at Van Duzen County Park (707.445.7651)

Drink You can’t go wrong with any of the award-winning brews from Six Rivers Brewing.

Beer West’s Festival DO’S + DON’TS

Like in any social gathering, there are sets of rules that should be followed. No, we’re not your mother, but we’ve been to enough festivals to know right from wrong.

Do Respect the individual festival’s rules; they’re in place for a reason even if they don’t make sense to you

Don’t Hassle the person pouring the beer if they run out of a particular beer, typically they’re volunteers

Don’t Get wasted. It’s tempting, sure; there are so many beers, it’s hot out, the music’s pumping, but save yourself from tickets, being arrested, angering friends, and making an ass out of yourself by managing your drinking

Do Take notes on beers you enjoy so you can get them again or purchase them at your local bottle shop

Don’t Expect there to be food; not all festivals offer food options

Do Go with a group of friends. You’ll get to taste more beer

Don’t Drive if you are drunk. This is a no-brainer but we all need a reminder sometimes

Do Manage your level of inebriation

Do Arrive with a full stomach. It’ll allow you to try more beer

Do Expect to wait in line for certain beers

Don’t Think you have to finish every taste; it’s perfectly acceptable to dump out beer

Do Arrive early if you want to ensure you’ll get a taste of your favorite beer

Do Have fun!