By Hillary Richard McNamara
Now that summer is in full swing, so is festival season. And while fruit festivals and restaurant weeks are worthy endeavors, drink festivals are a fantastic way to learn about regional artisans, celebrate local products, and get a taste of something new and unique. Besides, it just wouldn't be summer without a cold drink (or two, or three) outside on a hot day. Whether you need an excuse to celebrate the good weather or just want to learn more about brewers, mixologists, and vintners, these summer drink festivals are sure to help you chill out.
The first annual Winestock Festival takes place this year on Saturday, July 14th at the Little Washington Winery in Northern Virginia. Much like another similarly named historic festival, Winestock will feature a wide variety of musicians playing everything from pop to rock to reggae in a scenic meadow. Unlike Woodstock, Winestock caters to a more serious crowd. The event offers wine pairing seminars, cooking demos, and an artisan market from 11am to 9pm. Admission is $10.
Breckenridge Beer Festival
For the past nine years, Breckenridge Beer Festival has given brew masters a chance to showcase their classic concoctions and latest inventions in the Colorado mountains. This year, each of the 25 microbrewers will have up to four types of beer on hand for sampling, which means attendees can try up to 100 different brews. The festival also has music, gifts, and some creative costumes. Entry is free for non-drinkers, but tickets start at $25 (in advance) for a bottomless tasting cup. The festival runs on July 14 from 1pm to 6pm in Breckenridge, Colorado.
Connecticut Wine Festival
The Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association started the Connecticut Wine Festival four years ago in order to promote local vineyards and wine education. This festival appeals to wine lovers and aspiring connoisseurs alike with activities like wine classes, tastings from local vineyards, specialty food vendors, live music, and artisanal crafts. The Connecticut Wine Festival will be held on July 28 and 29 at the Goshen Fairgrounds. Tickets are $25 in advance.
Tales of the Cocktail
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, where some of the country's best mixologists work their magic in the hopes of winning a coveted Spirit Award. Cocktail writers, food scientists, and other drink professionals lead seminars and competitions from July 25 through July 29. Individual tickets range from $40 to $100.
DC Beer Week
This August 12 to 18, the fourth annual DC Beer Week will take place at various restaurants around Washington, DC. The week kicks off with a craft beer dinner cruise on the Potomac, followed by more than 150 separate events meant to highlight DC's local beer and dining community. Tickets for the dinner cruise are $100 in advance. Tickets for individual events range from free to $125.
Traverse City Summer Microbrew and Music Festival
Fans of Midwestern craft beers (particularly the Michigan kind) will enjoy the fourth annual Traverse City Summer Microbrew and Music Festival on August 24 and 25. This popular festival is all about celebrating craft beer and local culture while having fun. What really sets this festival apart is its lineup of great music and its unique setting at Grand Traverse Commons (on the lawn of the city's former mental asylum). Tickets start at $35 in advance.