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The Ten Best Beer Festivals in Colorado This Summer

It's important to dress appropriately for beer festivals this summer.
It's important to dress appropriately for beer festivals this summer.
Danielle Lirette
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Long before Colorado had legal weed, it had craft beer. The state's first craft brewery opened in 1979; since then, the craft-beer scene has exploded, with 360 breweries now pouring in Colorado. Add to all that great beer our sparkling blue skies, stunning scenery and plenty of places to hike, bike and otherwise work off our beer bellies, and there's no place in the world with better beer fests. Here are ten of the best, in chronological order.

Snowmass' beer festival is surprisingly civilized.EXPAND
Snowmass' beer festival is surprisingly civilized.
Courtesy Two Parts Facebook

Snowmass Rendezvous Craft Beer Festival
June 9
Snowmass Village

Beer festivals that cap the number of attendees are a rare commodity these days; since Coloradans have a seemingly insatiable need to throw back pints with several hundred of their nearest and dearest, there's always more money to be made — even if it comes with stagnant lines and massive crowds. That's one of the reasons we like this festival so much: Tickets are capped, so the crush of humanity is manageable and there's plenty of room to enjoy the early-summer mountain air. This year, breweries from Winter Park, Basalt and Salida as well as Front Range favorites will join the lineup, and the aptly named Drunken Hearts will perform.

The Pressed Fest serves ciders of all stripes.
The Pressed Fest serves ciders of all stripes.
Kevin Galaba

Pressed Fest
June 9
Thompson Park, Longmont

This cider festival reminds us of beer festivals of yore: It's intimate and relaxed. Cider is gaining popularity — after just two years, Pressed Fest moved to bigger digs — but you'll still enjoy short lines and big pours from  over twenty cideries serving everything from apple to pear to cucumber ciders, in styles ranging from sugary- sweet to bone-dry to George Clinton-level funky. Whether you can't drink beer because of that pesky gluten or you want to get in on the trend's ground floor so that in five years you can grouse about how much better the cider scene used to be, this is an event to start paying attention to now.

Vail Craft Beer Class takes over the town on Father's Day weekend.EXPAND
Vail Craft Beer Class takes over the town on Father's Day weekend.
Scott Peterson

Vail Craft Beer Classic
June 15-17
Downtown Vail
Tickets start at $55

Plenty of festivals let you drink with your favorite brewers, but how many will send you on an early-morning fly-fishing expedition with them? Since you can't drink beer for three days straight (we've tried), it makes sense that brewers and drinkers alike would take advantage of Vail's outdoor activities when they're not imbibing. In addition to the usual festival trappings (a pair of tastings, brewer's dinner and lunch, and a small-plates pairing), guests can hike, bike or fish with a brewmaster; if you're lucky, you'll even get a taste of their favorite post-adventure beers.

Grilled cheese improves beer by a factor of brie.
Grilled cheese improves beer by a factor of brie.
Courtesy Attack of the Big Beers Facebook

Attack of the Big Beers
June 22-24
Copper Mountain Resort
Tickets start at $20

Not only will your tastebuds be in heaven at this fest, but your senses of sight and sound will be just as engaged, as the weekend promises not only beer, but music and movies. The high-gravity beers on tap pack a punch in ABV as well as flavor — think barleywines, Belgians and imperial IPAs — and will be accompanied by grilled cheese sandwiches. That's right: Cast off your pretzel necklace and dig in to something that can stand up to those big brews. And the weekend doesn't end when the kegs are kicked; filmmakers will also be in attendance, screening their movies at the state's only craft beer, grilled cheese and film festival.

Brewers from all over Colorado enjoy the Salida's Brewer's Rendezvous, now in its 22nd year.EXPAND
Brewers from all over Colorado enjoy the Salida's Brewer's Rendezvous, now in its 22nd year.
Courtesy Mile High Brew Review Facebook

Brewer's Rendezvous
July 14
Riverside Park, Salida

It's worth a few hours on the road to reach one of the state's most scenic beer festivals. Every July, brewers from across Colorado transform Riverside Park into a shady oasis on the banks of a river of beer. The mellow vibe and beautiful scenery put everyone in a good mood, and there's plenty of hiking and mountain biking to keep you occupied when you're not downing ales. Our favorite way to round out the weekend? Get provisions for breakfast at the Alpine Park farmers' market, where you can pick up foodstuffs like tamales and local goat meat, then hit the nearby Mt. Princeton Hot Springs for a soak.

Obviously, Westminster is still stuck in the '80s.EXPAND
Obviously, Westminster is still stuck in the '80s.
Courtesy City of Westminster Parks, Recreation & Libraries Facebook

Westy Craft Brew Fest
July 28
Christopher Fields, Westminster

You don't have to head for the hills in order to enjoy a satisfying afternoon of tastings and tipples. At Westminster's West Craft Brew Fest, over 55 breweries will be pouring their best. While the setting is expansive, it isn't the most scenic — the fest is set up on the municipal softball fields — but the number of beers on tap here are a definite hit. Established Denver favorites to lesser-known outfits from Louisville, Loveland, Lafayette and Erie will be in attendance, proving that RiNo isn't the northern border of the Napa Valley of Beer.

Cheers to circus performers!EXPAND
Cheers to circus performers!
Courtesy Colorado Cider & Beer Circus Facebook

Colorado Cider and Beer Circus
August 25
Copper Mountain Resort

If you've been to a bar anytime in the past decade, you know that some joints qualify as free daycare, given the number of children darting around. Craft beer and cider is family fun these days, and this fest embraces the child in all of us, with stilt-walkers, aerialists and acrobats performing alongside stands of ales and ciders. While cideries outnumber breweries, there's a strong beer presence here, so everyone — except maybe your kiddo — will find something delicious to drink. Whether to bring your toddler to a park full of tipsy tightrope walkers is up to you, but there will be plenty to entertain them if you do.

Tour de Fat's bike parade is bypassing Denver this year, so head north to Fort Collins' celebration.
Tour de Fat's bike parade is bypassing Denver this year, so head north to Fort Collins' celebration.
Ken Hamblin

Tour de Fat
September 1
New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins

Denver's 2017 Tour de Fat encountered so much controversy that the beer and bike bash was canceled at the last minute. It's back in the Mile High City this year, but without the costumed bike parade, which is why we're willing to make the trek to Fort Collins for the original, homegrown version of the fest, complete with grown men dressed in tutus slowly weaving down the street on their two-wheelers. Coupled with New Belgium brews and tunes from headliner Phosphorescent, the event is well worth the $15 admission, which goes to offset the cost of putting on the party and will ensure that more of the proceeds go directly to local bike nonprofits.

Love is in the air at 2017's Great American Beer Festival.
Love is in the air at 2017's Great American Beer Festival.
Danielle Lirette

Great American Beer Festival
September 20-22
Colorado Convention Center

It's strange to think of the GABF as a summer event, but the granddaddy of ’em all officially closes on the last day of the season, and no list of Colorado beer festivals would be complete without mentioning the largest fest in the U.S. Attendees from around the globe sample from 3,800 brews; the array is so vast, there's even an app to help you plan your drinking by beer style, jot down tasting notes and keep track of the breweries you visit. Tickets go on sale August 1 and will sell out, so if you want to make it to the big show, plan accordingly.

Big beers, big fun at last year's Oktoberfest.EXPAND
Big beers, big fun at last year's Oktoberfest.
Brandon Marshall

Denver Oktoberfest
September 21-23 and September 28-30
2000 to 2200 block of Larimer Street

If you've tasted one Oktoberfest beer, you've tasted them all. There, we said it. And while drinking a dark, malty brew is indeed one of life's great joys, the true test of an Oktoberfest are the extracurricular activities surrounding the beer tent. That's why our favorite German beer festival in the state is Denver's own; with music galore (including a dedicated German stage), keg bowling, a brat-eating contest (first place wins $500, so start stuffing your face at those backyard summer barbecues) and the Long Dog Derby (where Denver's wiener dogs face off for the title of fastest waddler in the West), there's a wealth of entertainment for everyone.

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