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It’s beer festival season, or how to spend your weekends for the next two months

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This post has been updated.

We're in the midst of peak Beer Festival Season. Through the end of June, it's tough to go more than two weeks without at least one event offering the chance to drink dozens of beers outdoors for one low(ish) price.

What follows is an analysis of the upcoming beer festivals, with criteria including the all-important level of Beer Geek Appeal.

Maryland Craft Beer Festival

Date: Saturday, May 30
Location: Carroll Creek Park (44 S. Market St., Frederick)
Ticket price:$30; $45 VIP. (Purchase here.)
Number of breweries: 30
Breweries to look out for: Last year's standouts included Flying Dog, Oliver, Heavy Seas and Evolution, but keep an eye on the newcomers, including Manor Hill, Monument City and Assawoman Bay. Beers in the VIP tent include rarities from participating breweries.
Hours of drinking included: Five (1 to 6 p.m.) with regular admission; six (noon to 6 p.m.) with VIP.
Number of samples you get: Six four-ounce samples, with extra samples for $1 each. VIP tickets include 10 samples.
Is there food? Expect barbecue and seafood vendors, food trucks, and booths staffed by local restaurants.
Level of beer geek appeal: High for Marylanders, medium-high for everyone else. This is the rare festival that ignores national brands found at every bar, and even those breweries located just across the Potomac. The annual Maryland Craft Beer Festival does a good job of covering the output of brewpubs and small breweries from all over the Old Line state: Frederick to Baltimore, Salisbury to St. Michael's, and Laurel to Ocean City. This year's event will be an early chance to try Manor Hill, Howard County's first farm brewery, Baltimore's new Monument City Brewing, and Ocean City's Assawoman Bay. (While VIP tickets sold out quickly, they're still available to anyone taking the "BAM Bus" to the festival from the Jailbreak Brewery in Laurel; Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore; or Heavy Seas Brewing in Halethorpe.)


Date: Friday-Saturday, June 5-6
Location: National Building Museum (401 F St. NW)
Ticket price: $135; $155 with a brewer-led seminar.
Number of breweries: 74
Breweries to look out for: Who don't you look out for at Savor? Short's, Surly, Cigar City, Strange and Hop and Grain will be on many people's lists, but sometimes it's the unexpected beers that grab you: I'd never had Lexington, Ky.,'s Country Boy before 2014, and it wound up on my list of 2014's top offerings.
Hours of drinking included: Three-and-a-half (7:30 to 11 p.m.) per night for general admission; some salons begin at 6:15 p.m.
Number of samples you get: Unlimited.
Is there food? Each beer is paired with a fancy small bite: Grab a glass of Strange's Breakfast Grapefruit IPA, for example, and you'll receive a serving of blue crab, grapefruit and avocado on toast.
Level of beer geek appeal: Stratospheric. One of the biggest and classiest beer events in the country, brewers and beer lovers travel to Savor from all over the U.S. A good number of these breweries don't ever make it to D.C., so it's the perfect opportunity to randomly sample an organic ale from Portland, Ore., or a ginger wheat beer from Nashville. All you have to do is pick a table and start tasting. Interactive tasting salons are hosted by some of the biggest names in the industry – who wouldn't benefit from talking about aging sour beers in spirits barrels with Allagash's Jason Perkins, or the hearing brewers from Devils Backbone and Troegs discuss what makes an award-winning lager?

The downside is that Savor sells out very quickly, though friends of mine have always managed to find a last-minute ticket on Craigslist or StubHub. Right now, tickets for Friday night range from $189 to $297 on StubHub, with more expensive tickets usually including access to a seminar.

Summerfest DC

Date: Saturday, June 13
Location: The Fairgrounds (1299 Half St. SE)
Ticket price: $35 through April 10, $50 after. $70 VIP. (Purchase here.)
Number of breweries: Not confirmed yet. There were 60 breweries with beer on tap last year.
Breweries to look out for: Not announced yet. Based on last year's offerings, Hardywood, Rogue, Crooked Run, Flying Dog and Brooklyn.
Hours of drinking included: Three if you go to an early session (noon to 3 p.m., 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.) or not-quite-three if you attend the late session. (7:15 to 10 p.m.)
Number of samples you get: Unlimited.
Is there food? Snacks come from local food trucks, with a lineup TBD.
Level of beer geek appeal: Medium, for now. This is another festival with a mix of familiar craft beer names and a good number of non-craft products. (Does anyone really pay to go to a beer festival to sample Shock Top, Blue Moon or Pacifico?) But where Summerfest shone last summer was getting popular brewers to bring out-of-the-ordinary beers. Brooklyn could have brought Lager and Summer Ale last year; Instead, they poured Blast Double IPA and Shackmeister Pale Ale. Flying Dog had Bloodline Blood Orange IPA and Earl Grey Black Wheat Ale. Hardywood offered Great Return IPA and Sidamo Coffee Stout. (Friends who don't like beer can look at around 10 ciders and 30 wines.) Get the $35 advance tickets and you're looking at quite a deal, if this year's draft list matches 2014's.

Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest

Date: Saturday-Sunday, June 20-21
Location: Bull Run Regional Park (7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville)
Ticket price: $25 in advance, $35 at the gate; $10 designated drivers. Children under 16 free. (Tickets will go on sale in April; keep checking the Web site for updates.)
Number of breweries: Unknown. 64 attended last year.
Breweries to look out for: This year's list hasn't been finalized. Last year had a good number of Virginia breweries, including Champion, Old Bust Head and Adroit Theory, and local ciders, such as Distillery Lane, Winchester Cider Works and Bold Rock.
Hours of drinking included: Eight per day (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.). Taps close at 6 p.m.
Number of samples you get: Admission includes six drink tickets. Additional tickets cost $2 each. Most samples are one ticket; some rare or strong beers cost two.
Is there food? Yes, from local food trucks and restaurants.
Level of beer geek appeal: Unknown. This is a year of big change for the annual Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest: It's moving from Leesburg's Morven Park to the Bull Run Regional Park, the site of its companion event, the Northern Virginia Fall Brewfest. Interestingly, the beer list will now be handled by Bill Madden, the respected owner of Mad Fox Brewing Company, one of the founders of the Northern Virginia Brewfests, who also played a role in organizing the Capitol City Brewing Company's Oktoberfest when he worked for that brewery. This is always a solid event – there's live music, local craft vendors and other components for a full day out – and if will be interesting to see if Madden can focus the brewery offerings along the lines of the popular events at Mad Fox.

The following festivals have taken place since this post was first published on April 9.

DC Beer Festival

Date: Saturday, April 11
Location: Nationals Park
Ticket price: $40 (Purchase here.)
Number of breweries: 70
Breweries to look out for: Blue Mountain, Burley Oak, Champion, Lagunitas.
Hours of drinking included: Three; either 1 to 4 p.m. or 6 to 9 p.m.
Number of samples you get: Unlimited.
Is there food? "Over a dozen food trucks" are promised.
Level of beer geek appeal: Medium. The DC Beer Festival strikes a good balance between big West Coast names (Lagunitas, No-Li, Left Coast), smaller regional brewers (Roy Pitz, Pleasure House, Full Tilt) and locals that aren't available in every jurisdiction (Crooked Run, RAR, Old Bust Head). The ballpark setting, DJs and lawn games make it feel like a post-college party. But the better-known breweries don't bring their hard-to-find stuff, and visits to Evolution or Green Flash's booths might leave you saying "Nope. Had those before." But it's a good day out, and you may discover a relatively nearby brewery you'd never seen on tap.

Cherry Blossom Beer and Wine Festival

Date: Saturday, April 11
Location: Yards Parking Lot (1300 First St. SE)
Ticket price: $45 (Purchase here.) Note: There is currently a waitlist for session one.
Number of breweries: Currently 46
Breweries to look out for: Boulevard, Green Flash, Fort Collins, Dogfish Head.
Hours of drinking included: Three; either 1:30-4:30 p.m. or 6-9 p.m.
Number of samples you get: Unlimited.
Is there food? A dozen food trucks, including Red Hook Lobster Pound, CapMac and Dirty South Deli, will sell food.
Level of beer geek appeal: Medium-Low. Organizers billed the wine selection ("50+ wines") over the brews ("30+ beers") even as the selection grew. There are some good breweries participating, particularly from the West Coast and North Carolina, and locals include 3 Stars and Monocacy, plus Millstone Cider. But the brewer list is rather pedestrian (Widmer, Goose Island, Blue Point, Sam Adams), and the dueling piano show and long wine list are bound to be bigger draws, especially with the DC Beer Festival taking place a short walk away.

Mid-Atlantic Spring Beer Festival

Date: Saturday, April 25
Location: The Village at Shirlington, outside Capitol City Brewing Company
Ticket price: $30; free for those not drinking.
Number of breweries: 35.
Breweries to look out for: Forge Brew Works, Old Ox, Adroit Theory, Oliver Brewing.
Hours of drinking included: Six; taps open from noon to 6 p.m. Event closes at 7 p.m.
Number of samples you get: Ticket includes 10 four-ounce samples; additional tastes are available for $1, with a five-ticket minimum.
Is there food? Yes, with stands representing Shirlington restaurants, and other concessions.
Level of beer geek appeal: Medium. The second Mid-Atlantic Spring Festival, which capitalizes on the popularity of Capital City Brewing Company's annual Oktoberfest, has the largest roster of D.C., Maryland and Virginia breweries of similar festivals. Many new NoVa breweries are represented, including Heritage, Old Bust Head and Adventure, as are the major Baltimore breweries, such as Brewers Art, Heavy Seas and Oliver. The three D.C. breweries sold in Northern Virginia (DC Brau, 3 Stars and Atlas) are also included. If you're looking for a State of the Region tasting, this street festival is the place to do it. If you want to sample hoppy IPAs from the Pacific Northwest, you'll want to look elsewhere.

Mad Fox Spring Bock Fest

Date: Saturday, May 2
Location: Mad Fox Brewing Company (444 West Broad St. Falls Church)
Ticket price: Free entry. Those drinking pay $20 for six tickets and a tasting glass, or $50 for 20 tickets and two glasses.
Number of breweries: 24, though organizers expect the number to rise to 30.
Breweries to look out for: Devils Backbone, Hardywood Park, Lickinghole Creek.
Hours of drinking included: Six (Noon to 6 p.m.)
Number of samples you get: Either six or 20 (see above). Additional tickets are $2 each.
Is there food? Yes. Expect plenty of grilled meat.
Level of beer geek appeal: Medium-high. A festival dedicated to mellow, malty seasonal German Maibock beers is dominated by Virginia brewers, with small contingents from Maryland, Pennsylvania and D.C. Devils Backbone is bringing a pair of bocks – Maggie's Maibock and Smokehouse Bock – while Hardywood offers Walpurgisnacht, its annual smoked bock, and Lost Rhino is unveiling its own Maibock. If you're not into bocks, don't worry: Other breweries, such as Heritage, Adroit Theory and Old Bust Head, will have wheat beers, IPAs and other styles.

D.C. Craft Beer Festival

Date: Saturday, May 9
Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center (801 Mount Vernon Pl. NW)
Ticket price: $45-$55 regular depending on date of purchase; $60-$75 VIP (Purchase here.)
Number of breweries: 75
Breweries to look out for: Stone, Elysian, 3 Stars, No-Li.
Hours of drinking included: Two-and-a-half'; VIP admission gets three-and-a-half.
Number of samples you get: Unlimited.
Is there food? Organizers have partnered with Mess Hall to offer food from local chefs and food trucks, with suggested beer pairings for some dishes. (Food is sold separately.)
Level of beer geek appeal: Medium to Medium-Low. We have to put a giant blinking red asterisk next to this event: The D.C. Craft Beer Festival was supposed to take place at the Convention Center back in March, but organizers cancelled it only four days before the event, due to "major logistical obstacles" that "would have resulted in unacceptably long wait times for beer replenishment and lines at tasting stations." Customers who'd purchased tickets flooded the event's Facebook page to complain about difficulties getting refunds. Couple these organizational woes with a so-so beer list that currently contains beers available at just about every other festival, and it's hard to feel bearish about this event with so many other options out there.

D.C. Hopfest

Date: Saturday, May 9
Location: Hellbender Brewing Company (5788 Second St. NW)
Ticket price: $35. (Purchase here.)
Number of breweries: 15.
Breweries to look out for: 3 Stars, Hellbender, Right Proper, Bluejacket.
Hours of drinking included: Three (1 to 4 p.m.).
Number of samples you get: Unlimited, in a special D.C. Brewers Guild logo glass.
Is there food? The award-winning D.C. Firefighting BBQ Team will be serving 'cue and potato salad.
Level of beer geek appeal: Medium-High. Now this is an event to get hopheads salivating: 15 breweries from D.C., Maryland and Virginia bringing their tastiest IPAs, double IPAs and Imperial IPAs. There's no beer list at this time (April 20), but given the quality of the breweries involved, from Adroit Theory to Brewers Art, this has to go towards the top of most beer geeks' list of festivals. Those who prefer a spring saison or a malty Belgian ale, however, might want to look elsewhere.

ABV: D.C.'s Leading Libation Festival

Date: Saturday, May 16
Location: Canal Park (1100 New Jersey Ave. SE)
Ticket price:$65 in advance; $85 VIP ticket includes access to a VIP lounge. (Purchase here.) Tickets at the door, which include no drink tickets, are $20.
Number of breweries: 35 saisons and sour ales will be included.
Breweries to look out for: Cantillon, Green Bench, De la Senne, Bluejacket.
Hours of drinking included: Five. (3 to 8 p.m.)
Number of samples you get: 10 pours. Additional drinks are available a la carte.
Is there food? Red Apron's chefs will prepare smoked brisket, wings and gourmet hot dogs, while Rob Rubba of the forthcoming Hazel makes steamed buns.
Level of beer geek appeal: High. ABV is not a traditional beer festival – it's an excuse for Bluejacket/ChurchKey founder Greg Engert to tap almost three dozen of his favorite beers, including Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, Crooked Stave Vieille Artisanal, and funky saisons from newcomers Green Bench and 18th Street Brewery. It's a chance for smartphone-wielding whale hunters to tick off some rarities on their Untappd lists, such as the Beachwood and De la Senne collaboration Senne of a Beachwood. It's also a beer festival where you can take friends who say they don't like beer – they'll be perfectly happy sipping the German and Spanish roses selected by sommelier Brent Kroll, or the cocktails made with small-batch gin or mezcal crafted by cocktail expert Jeff Faile. (Kroll and Faile are behind the wine and spirits menus at Iron Gate, Partisan and other top-notch D.C. restaurants.)

Beer, Bacon, Music

Date: Saturday, May 16
Location: Frederick County Fairgrounds Eventplex (797 E. Patrick St., Frederick)
Ticket price: $35; $45 includes unlimited samples for 1 cent each; $55 allows early admission. (Purchase here.)
Number of breweries: At least 62.
Breweries to look out for: Ballast Point, Full Tilt, Victory, Rogue.
Hours of drinking included: Five (noon to 5 p.m.) with regular ticket; early admission tickets are good for six hours (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
Number of samples you get: Five. two-ounce samples with basic ticket, with extra samples for $1 each. The Penny Beer Sampler allows for unlimited samples for 1 cent each. If you find a beer you really like, purchase a full-sized pour for $5.
Is there food? All tickets include all-you-can-eat bacon -- there will be two tons available -- but food trucks and other bacon vendors will also be on hand.
Level of beer geek appeal: Medium. The first Beer, Bacon, Music festival last year had its hiccups: Attendees complained about hour-long waits to enter and bacon running out in the middle of the afternoon. But organizers say they have new, more experienced ticketing, security and catering partners, and believe things will run smoother. (The event is also only one day in 2015, instead of two.) Outside of the logistics, knowledgeable beer drinkers might be turned off by the idea of a "festival" with Shock Top, Stella Artois and Hoegaarden, and see the hidden hand of Anheuser-Busch in some of the selections. But there's a pretty good beer list here, with a solid mix of local and regional breweries among the Sierras and Sixpoints. The real attraction is the list of rarities hidden among the beers: For every Red Hook Long Hammer or Brooklyn Lager, there's Devils Backbone Base Camp, Goose Island Bourbon County Barley Wine, or Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA. On stage, there's classic country, folk, blues and a Ramones cover band.