Issue 30

Understanding Beer Fests

Understanding Beer Fests

For many of you, the universe of beer spans about 20 feet and is contained within your local grocery store. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing I guess but given the simple fact that there are nearly 1,500 breweries in the United States today and that most neither bottle nor distribute their beer – it doesn’t take much to create a small mental image of the beers that must be missing from that grocery aisle.

So what to do? Well, if you embrace the simple ethos that Craft Beer provides tremendous diversity in brands and styles, you must also then seek to encounter this rich and varied landscape. But it may take a little work which is why today’s treatise is centered on one of life’s seasonal requisites – the Beer Fest.

Before we discuss how to find one, let’s dispel a few myths and seek some clarity. First, a Beer Fest is not a drunk fest. Believe it or not. American Craft Beer Festivals exist to create an educational environment within which attendees are able to discover and sample Craft Beers that they’ve likely not encountered previously. True, there may be some familiarity with a particular brewery or two but the excitement exists in the realm of discovery. Many times, breweries not only haul along their flagship brands but bring with them one-offs, reserve creations, and experimental beers. It is important that we create some mental distinction between a Craft Beer Festival and a Beer Garden , which does tend to gravitate simply toward a place to relax and consume but a few brands and little more. And I suppose this drives us on to our next little point.

Size matters. Drawing further distinction between the Beer Fest and the Beer Garden, one of the more interesting differentiators tends to be the size of the serving. As the Beer Fest has as its main goal a journey of discovery, servings tend to be of the 2 oz. variety while the Beer Garden, with its main goal that of refreshment, usually creates much larger servings of the 12 oz. or 16 oz. variety. Given a Beer Fest breadth of time that typically runs around 4 hours, toting around a 2 oz. sampler glass allows the attendee to move from beer to beer while keeping the eye on the prize – diversity.

Diversity. I think this one word tends to provide, quite possibly, one of the largest reasons the entire Craft Beer movement is garnering such attention. Consider for a moment again that grocery aisle. You might want to buy beer from a store, first you need ID, perhaps from, then you’ll need to pick a beer. If you can picture it in your mind’s eye, you’ll see that the large, mass produced brands tend to occupy the largest amount of space. The same is essentially true under the separate beer tents if you will. The beer garden many times provides a few macro-brands from which to select while the Beer Fest tent can sometimes have hundreds. Diversity is the spice of life and I’m here to help you encounter it.

Ok, so we’ve now created distinction and hopefully, a better awareness as to the purpose of a true Beer Festival. And beyond that, if you’re like me, we’re already wondering where and when the next Beer Fest might be. Well, let’s feed that inner appetite and malted barley desire. They are out there and easily found…
The largest within our fine country is the Great American Beer Festival held each year in Colorado. Hundreds of breweries and thousands of beers gathered in one massive setting to set your Craft Beer World on fire. But for many of you, distance remains a barrier. So let’s get to the heart of the matter.

Local! Man, I wish I had a nickel… you get the point. Omaha, Lincoln and the surrounding areas probably have more beer fests than you know. Unfortunately, and as you might expect, the organizers of these events many times deal with very tight budgets which limits the extent of advertising. Quite the paradox. But we have some pretty slick options when it comes to information. One of the largest beer event clearing houses can be found at As the name implies, BeerAdvocate has become an epicenter of sorts for local and regional information related to Craft Beer, beer events, and news within the Craft Beer community. Heading to their events page and running a query on the State of your choice will get you there.

As if I needed to create further desire, you’ll find that Beer Festivals tend to further an element of cultural expansion as well. Although not a mandate, charities tend to indirectly benefit in some fashion and local musicians and artists in general also find a common bond with the central themes of creativity, the eclectic nature of the attendees, and the knowledge that a beer fest is a tremendous way to connect with a community eager to learn, experience aspects of life that exist a little off the beaten path, and find enjoyment in a serving that comes 2 ounces at a time.

Paul Kavulak

Paul Kavulak

Paul’s first professional life was spent working in IT. Most recently as the SVP of Enterprise Technology Integration for West Corporation and while this occupied his daylight hours, most of the others were consumed by an immersion in beer. Not physically – his passion exists in beer and brewing. Prior to starting up Nebraska Brewing Company with his wife, Kim – Paul had been homebrewing for roughly 17 years. This passion formed the basis for a dogged pursuit of perfection in numerous beer styles and beer history. Livin’ the dream

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