Summer in Wisconsin is a great time to be a craft beer lover. There are more than a few standout beer fests to keep you occupied during the warmer months.
When: Saturday, May 25
Where: Juneau Avenue between 9th and 11th St.
Why you should go: Because block parties are fun and even better if the weather cooperates. This new fest features beer by Pabst Milwaukee Brewery and Taproom and Milwaukee Brewing Company. It also features three stages of music, and plenty of food choices. All of these festivities come at the low price of free.
Why you should go: You appreciate the flavor of moderately carbonated, unpasteurized cask-conditioned ales and ciders. You just don’t get the chance to try samples from more than 50 different firkins in one place very often. Just think of what it will do for your Untappd check-ins.
Tickets: $50 general admission, $75 Gold Pass, $85 VIP
When: Saturday, June 15
Where: Bayshore Town Center, 5800 N. Bayshore Dr.
Why you should go: On, Wisconsin! The Wisconsin Beer Lovers Festival only pours beers brewed in the Badger State. That list has grown significantly in the last few years. It’s a nice reminder of just how good the beer is that’s being brewed in the state.
Tickets: $40 general admission, $50 beer enthusiast, $80 VIP
When: Saturday, June 15
Where: Brann Field, 8113 Hwy 57, Baileys Harbor
Why you should go: Because it’s in lovely Door County. Spending a day sampling from 150 beers can be a hard sell with the family, but packaging it into a summer trip makes it far more attractive. I’m not including many fests that aren’t in the Milwaukee area, but the combination of outstanding scenery and a beer list that’s no slouch makes this one worth the drive. Be sure to swing by Door County Brewing Company while you’re there.
Tickets: $40 general admission
When: Saturday, June 22
Where: Bavarian Bierhaus, 700 W. Lexington Blvd.
Why you should go: The tagline “by beer nuts, for beer nuts” sums it up perfectly. The Beer Barons of Milwaukee have been hosting the World of Beer Festival for 16 years, long before the craft beer explosion happened. This year, the festivities move from The Schwabenhof to the Bavarian Bierhaus. It’s hard to find a better tap list when it comes to rarities and limited brews. Cider and mead fans won’t be disappointed either.
Tickets: $50 general admission, $70 VIP
When: Saturday, July 27
Where: McKinley Park, 1750 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr.
Why you should go: You can’t beat the lakefront when it comes to a festival venue and the scenery has proven to be a strong pull for the fest celebrating its 10th year. If the weather cooperates it’s the perfect spacious setting. Beer tents housing more than 100 breweries are smartly organized to allow for plenty of room for attendees.
Tickets: $60 general admission, $80 VIP
Why you should go: Wisconsin IPA Fest has been a huge success in its first two years of existence. Brewers from around the state bring some of their best IPAs and a large group of judges (including a very thankful me) vote on the best. Attendees can try a wide range of IPA styles and vote on their favorite too.
Tickets: Free (keep an eye on the event page as ticketing details may change)
When: Saturday, August 3
Where: Pennoyer Park, 3601 7th Ave., Kenosha
Why you should go: As a show of state pride. The clever event, only in its fourth year, pits Wisconsin breweries against Illinois breweries. The winning state, as voted by attendees, gets the soon-to-be-coveted “Willy” trophy. Here’s hoping that the Brewers are above the Cubbies in the National League Central standings in August.
Tickets: $45 general admission, $85 VIP
When: Saturday, August 10
Where: Olin Park, Madison
Why you should go: It’s one of the oldest — this will be the 33rd year — and most revered beer festivals in the United States. More than 190 quality breweries hand out some of their amazing creations to craft beer aficionados. Tickets are notoriously hard to get, but the good news is that even if you can’t get your hands on one, you can benefit. Bars around Madison host plenty of outstanding beer events to kick off the weekend.
Tickets: $60 general admission (sold out, so ask a friend)
When: Saturday, September 7
Where: Erv’s Mug, 130 W. Ryan Rd.
Why you should go: If you like Oktoberfests and other fall brews, then this grassroots fest is not to be missed. The event, in its ninth year, features nearly 100 beers and a German-inspired food buffet. If you haven’t been to Erv’s Mug then this is your excuse to visit the friendly outpost on the south side. Ervtoberfest is a laid-back beer festival, and an ideal way to wind down after a busy summer.
When: Saturday, September 14
Where: Racine Zoological Gardens, 2131 N. Main St., Racine
Why you should go: It’s a great way to mark the end of the summer beer festival season. Plus, it’s at a zoo on the lakefront. Add more than 450 different beers from around 100 breweries to the mix and the Great Lakes Brew Fest makes it a good idea to drive south.
Tickets: $50 general admission, $70 gold pass, $90 VIP