Some things were just meant to go together — spaghetti and meatballs, Lennon and McCartney, Key and Peale, Tom Brady and Super Bowls. I’d add craft beers and autumn to that list.
Sure, some people will argue (and with merit), that a good craft beer really has no seasonal allegiance. Fair point. But the cool, crisp days of autumn, for my money, provide the absolute best times to enjoy a well-crafted brew. Why? Probably because the more hospitable weather encourages me to be more active, whether I’m pedaling, paddling or hiking. And that extra effort, I’ve always believed, deserves some reward.
New Englanders, and visitors to the area, are blessed with a ridiculous number of micro-breweries, and almost as many brewfests over the fall calendar. To select the “best” of these craft beers is a tricky proposition, given the fact that everyone has different tastes. So while some folks swear by The Alchemist’s Heddy Topper, a wonderful Imperial India Pale Ale, other folks might prefer a rich Hill Farmstead’s Everett Porter, Tree House Brewing’s Hold on to Sunshine sweet stout, or a seasonal spiced beverage like Woodstock Station’s Autumn Brew Ale, with hints of apple and cinnamon.
So, rather than taking our word for what beer is best, get out there and try these brews for yourself. You’ll find the settings vary almost as much as the beer offerings, from urban to rolling country, seaside to hillside. The following is a sampling of regional festivals scheduled after Labor Day. All offer dozens of beers to quaff (in moderation, of course), while many also benefit worthwhile causes. What could be better?
New England Homebrewers Jamboree, Tamworth, N.H. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7-8; The 20th annual New England Homebrewers Jamboree is one of the Northeast’s largest gatherings of homebrewers. Event activities include a Friday night Brewers Dinner (featuring German Oktoberfest fare), homebrew competition, homebrew tastings, brewing demonstrations, music, kids games, food and more. All proceeds benefit the New Hampshire Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Harvard Volksfest, Harvard, Mass. Saturday, Sept. 8; Held in the heart of Massachusetts apple country, the festival takes place in front of the Harvard library. The Harvard Volksfest is a Bavarian-style funfest for the whole family, including bed races, live music with the Rafters, the Contra Banditos and the Bare Hill Band, activities for youngsters, a stuffed-animal parade, an arts and crafts tent, and yard games, including “Human Foosball.”
Brass City Brew & ‘Que, Waterbury, Conn. Saturday, Sept. 8; The Brass City Brew & ‘Que evolved from the 12-year-old Brass City Brew Fest, with the same great assortment of brews but with the added attraction of mouthwatering barbecue. Only 2,100 tickets will be sold. Admission provides entry and sampling in all tents.
Claremont Brewfest, Claremont, N.H. Saturday, Sept. 15; The Claremont Brewfest draws a large crowd with beer-lovers traveling from near and far to sample some of the most delicious brews in the nation. More than 30 brewers, an eclectic collection of food vendors, and good music makes this beer fest one of the most popular in the area.
Steeple Market Brewfest, Fairfax, Vt. Saturday, Sept. 15 The third annual Steeple Market Brewfest will be held at J&L Field, offering music, craft beer and great food to support a hometown charity. There will be two tasting sessions, in addition to other activities like the “Incredibly Serious Cornhole Tournament” and live music with the Thunder Kittens. Proceeds support the Fairfax Fire Department.
Two Roads Ok2berfest, Stratford, Conn. Saturday, Sept. 15; Sprechen sie Deutsch? The fourth annual Two Roads Ok2berfest at Two Roads Brewing Company pays homage to the world’s largest Volkfest (beer festival) with authentic German music, German-style beers, food, live music on two stages, games and more. No Limit Hefewiezen, Ol’ Factory Pilsner, Ok2berfest Marzen and Two Roads’ Festbier will be pouring all weekend long. Two Roads will be pouring an Altbier on Saturday and a Schwarzbier on Sunday.
Vegan & Vegetarian Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival, Watertown, Mass. Sunday, Sept. 16; More than 20 of the best local food trucks in New England offer special veggieinspired menus for the Vegetarian/Vegan Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival at the Arsenal Project in Watertown. In addition to more than 50 craft beers, there will be music and other entertainment. Bring your blankets and lawn chairs for a daylong picnic. A variety of pricing options allows participants to pick and choose what delicacies they want to sample.
Oktoberfest Vermont, Burlington, Vt. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 21-22; Oktoberfest Vermont, a Bavarianthemed festival for the harvest, will be held at Waterfront Park on the shores of Lake Champlain. This weekend-long festival is a gala of local food, authentic German music, games and contests, locally made rustic decor, and of course, beer. More than 40 brewers will attend, including a mix of famous local breweries, regional breweries and many traditional German Oktoberfest breweries.
Brewfest at the Beach, New London, Conn. Friday, Sept. 21: TGIF! Brewfest at the Beach happens from 6-9 p.m., with more than 150 brews representing virtually every style of beer made throughout the world, brew-friendly food, pizza, chili, live music by the Rhythm Method band, the ambiance of Ocean Beach Park and wine tasting. All proceeds benefit Camp Rotary, a summer camp for New London junior high students and other local charitable causes.
Martha’s Vineyard Craft Beer Festival, Oak Bluffs, Mass. Saturday, Sept. 22; The third annual Martha’s Vineyard Craft Beer Festival in Oak Bluffs advertises the following tagline “50-plus Breweries, 150 Beers, 1 Island.” Really, what else do you need to know? The festival features a variety of breweries ranging from island-produced to the West Coast and abroad. Brewery representatives will be on hand to talk about new products. In addition to the amazing beer selection, the event will feature live entertainment, fresh food and local art.
SIPtemberfest, Mad River Glen, Vt. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 22-23 SIPtemberfest has two-dozen brewers and only about 800 tickets. That combination makes it the “Best Little Beer Fest in Vermont,” offering people an unparalleled craft beer experience. Mad River Glen is a unique setting that keeps the vibe comfortable. With limited ticket sales, lines are never too long, allowing participants to chat with the brewers. The beers are amazing, people are cool and topnotch food and the music are local.
Harpoon Octoberfest, Boston Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28-29 This celebration of German food, music and beer will take place at Harpoon’s waterfront brewery in Boston. Three stages will host New England’s best German Oompah bands and Harpoon’s line of beers, including Harpoon’s own Octoberfest beer, will be flowing. Admission includes a souvenir pint glass and a drink ticket. If you can’t make the Boston fest, don’t fret — Harpoon will host another Octoberfest at its Windsor, Vt., brewery on Oct. 6-7.
Maine Lakes Brew Fest, Casco, Maine Saturday, Sept. 29; If the words beer and “sampling” are music to your ears, you’ll love the 14th annual Maine Lakes Brew Fest at Point Sebago. The event features live music, including local favorite Chad Porter, plus more than 35 brewers (offering almost 100 varieties of beer and wine) and 15 food vendors offering hot dogs, burgers, hot wings, chili, wood-fired pizza, sausage and pulled pork sandwiches, oysters and Maine lobster rolls. Originally held in Casco Village with several local brewers and 300 participants, it’s grown to be the area’s premier beer festival, with attendance topping 3,100. The entire event is held under tents on the beach at Sebago Lake.
Pints on the Pier, Bath, Maine Saturday, Sept. 29; Taste some of the state’s best brews — including Boothbay Craft Brewery, Flight Deck Brewing, Funky Bow Beer Company, and more — while enjoying live music from the Squid Jiggers. Sunset over the Kennebec River sets the scene for a one-of-a-kind party on the pier. Food trucks will be on-site offering a variety of eats and treats.
Derry Village Rotary Oktoberfest, Derry, N.H. Saturday, Sept. 29; This inaugural Oktoberfest, hosted by the Derry Village Rotary Club, will be held from noon to 6 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Derry. This is a fun event the entire family can enjoy (though tasters must be 21 or older). All proceeds benefit local charities in the Derry area.
Powder Keg Beer & Chili Festival, Exeter, N.H. Saturday, Oct. 6 The seventh annual Exeter Powder Keg Beer & Chili Festival at Swasey Parkway includes beer from breweries across the region, as well as live music all day. Vote for your favorite chili as local restaurants enter their house recipes in hopes of becoming the festival fan favorite.
Acadia’s Oktoberfest, Southwest Harbor, Maine Saturday, Oct. 6; Maine is home to a vibrant craft beer industry with more than 90 breweries, large and small. Acadia’s Oktoberfest, held annually on Columbus Day Weekend at Smugglers’ Den Campground surrounded by beautiful Acadia National Park, features many of them. Acadia’s 23rd Oktoberfest will kick off a week of tours, concerts, tastings, talks and demonstrations, featuring the history of Acadia’s Quietside, ending on Sunday, Oct. 14, at the finish of the 17th running of the MDI Marathon.
Okemo’s Fall into Winter Celebration, Ludlow, Vt. Saturday, Oct. 6; Bid farewell to foliage and willkommen to winter, and celebrate the transition of the seasons with live German music, German food, German beer tasting, craft vendors, hayrides, games and pumpkin painting. Authentic German attire is encouraged. Plus, Okemo’s Adventure Zone will be open with activities for the family. The party starts at 11 a.m., rain or shine, at Okemo’s Jackson Gore Inn courtyard.
Attitash Mountain Resort Oktoberfest, Bartlett, N.H. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 6-7 Attitash Mountain Resort hosts its 21st annual Oktoberfest at the Bear Peak base area with traditional Bavarian music from King Ludwig’s Band, authentic German fare and a Biergarten with 19 different local and regional breweries serving a host of seasonal beers and ciders. Children have the Kinderplatz tent complete with arts and crafts, face painting and other mini-games organized by the Mount Washington Valley Children’s Museum. For the adults, the Samuel Adams Stein Hoist Competition tests strength and concentration.
International Oktoberfest, East Providence, R.I. Saturday, Oct. 6; The 26th annual International Oktoberfest is brewing at a new location, Bold Point Park on the East Providence waterfront. This original Rhode Island Oktoberfest has Biergartens featuring dozens of seasonal, craft, imported and local brews, autumnal libations, food trucks offering traditional German favorites and festival fare, and a lively backdrop of spirited Bavarian/American entertainment.
King Pine Brew Ha Ha, Madison, N.H. Saturday, Oct. 6; King Pine Ski Area celebrates regional craft beer, live music, food, games and fun for the whole family during this freeadmission event. A limited number of commemorative mugs will be available for purchase as well as drink tokens good for 6-ounce beer samples from a wide variety of brewers from throughout New Hampshire and New England.
Beervana Fest, Cranston, R.I. Friday, Oct. 12; Another Friday night special, the 10th annual Beervana Fest is Rhode Island’s ultimate craft beer fest, held at the historic Rhodes on the Pawtuxet. Enjoy two floors of first-class craft beer, 60 beer tables and more than 250 beers. Beervana Fest fee includes a tasting glass, 2-ounce pours of some of the finest beers in the world and educational seminars.
Aroostook County Brew & Wine Festival, Presque Isle, Maine Saturday, Oct. 13; Presque Isle is a long, long drive for most New England residents. The Aroostook County Brew & Wine Festival makes the time behind the wheel well worthwhile. This fun, unique event is designed for the craft beer and wine lover alike, with educational sessions about the locally grown products used in the beer-making process.
New Hampshire Brew Fest, Portsmouth, N.H. Saturday, Oct. 13; Held on the grounds of Redhook Ale Brewery, the New Hampshire Brew Fest is a special fundraiser for the Prescott Park Arts Festival in partnership with Master Brewers Association of America and WHEB’s The Morning Buzz. Admission for the Brew Fest includes entry to the event, 5-ounce souvenir sampler cup, beer samples and live music and entertainment.
Cape Cod Brew Fest Saturday, Oct. 13; The sixth annual Cape Cod Brew Fest, held at the Cape Cod Fairgrounds, is a celebration of American craft brewers, boasting more than 60 breweries and more than 200 styles of beer. The festival also features live music, and food trucks and vendors will be on-site. Every attendee will receive a custom glass, and a portion of every ticket sold will benefit the Barnstable County Agricultural Society.
Elm City Brew Festival, New Haven, Conn. Saturday, Nov. 17; The College Street Music Hall presents the Elm City Brew Festival, bringing together nearly 60 of these talented brewing artisans to showcase their talents. Craft beer aficionados will be able to sample the many brews on tap while discussing beer with the brewers, representatives and other beer fans. Casual food offerings also will be available. For a more complete listing of brewfests, including those that may be close to you, visit BeerFests.com.