Beer, wine and spirit festivals are great places to sample new products and learn about the range of great new brands on the market. The end of summer and start of fall features a glut of these events. I'm missing more than a few, but here are events from coast to coast that are perfect for the connoisseur and the new fan.
Buffalo Brewfest: The 7th annual Buffalo Brewfest takes over HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y., on Aug. 23rd. Presale tickets are $20. You can get more details at www.buffalobrewfest.com.
Great American Distillers Festival: The fourth annual Great American Distillers Festival will be held Aug. 23-24 at the Gerding Theater in Portland, Ore. Four days of events lead up to the festival. A two day pass with three taster tickets is $16. Visit www.distillersfestival.com for information.
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: From Aug. 29-31 you can take part in vineyard lunches, winemaker dinners, the 29th Annual Taste of Sonoma Showcase and the 16th Annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction. Tickets are required for individual events. Check out www.SonomaWineCountryWeekend.com for complete details.
Indy Craft Beer Festival: On Sept. 13th the Indy Craft Beer Festival will be held in Indianapolis. The event will include a homebrew competition judged by the public. Advanced sale tickets are $35. Check out www.indycraftbeerfest.com.
Belgian Beer Festival: This celebration of Belgian ale returns to Boston for its fourth installment on Sept. 26-27. Sponsored by Beer Advocate, tickets for the Friday "Night of Funk" are $50, with two Saturday sessions priced at $40 each. Get more information at beeradvocate.com/fests/bbf.
Virginia Wine Festival: The 33rd annual Virginia Wine Festival takes place Sept. 27-28 at the Prince William County Fairgrounds in Manassas, Va. Organizers expect 20,000 people to sample wine from 50 Virginia wineries, while enjoying food and music. Advance tickets are $20 per day. Visit www.virginiawinefestival.org.
Charlotte Oktoberfest Beer Festival: The 10th annual event will be held on Sept. 27th at Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Standard tickets are $35, with premium one hour early entrance for $50. You can get more details at www.charlotteoktoberfest.com.
World Beer Festival: The 13th annual World Beer Festival in Durham, N.C., takes place during two sessions on Oct. 4th at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Developed by the good folks at All About Beer magazine, general admission tickets are $40, with special VIP tickets priced at $75 that include food and special beers not available at the main festival. Seminars are featured during both sessions, plus there is music and food. Get more information at www.allaboutbeer.com/wbf/.
Boulder County Brews Cruise: This annual pre-Great American Beer Festival event takes place on Oct. 8th. For $50 you get a bus ride from Denver to some of Boulder County Colorado's top breweries, a chance for stops at Redstone Meadery and Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey Distillery. Visit https://secure.lefthandbrewing.com/shop.aspx?category=2008%20Boulder%20County%20Brews%20Cruise%20(Each%20bus%20is%20different,%20please%20read%20the%20description%20of%20each%20bus%20carefully) to buy tickets.
Great American Beer Festival: The 27th annual Great American Beer Festival takes over the Colorado Convention Center in Denver from Oct. 9-11 for four sessions. You can expect 46,000 beer fans to sip more than 1,800 beers from hundreds of U.S. breweries. Visit www.beertown.org/events/gabf/index.htm to purchase tickets.
Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival: Held from Oct. 9-12 in New York, among the programs is a cocktail clinic and wine tastings. Tickets are sold for individual events. Check out www.nycwineandfoodfestival.com/2008/index1.php for more details.
WhiskyFest San Francisco: This Malt Advocate-sponsored event on Oct. 10th at the San Francisco Marriott features more than 200 of the world's finest whiskies, great food and the chance to attend a series of seminars. VIP early admittance tickets are $150, with general admission for $110. Visit www.maltadvocate.com/whiskeyfest-sf.asp for all the details.
Monterey Wine Festival: The 32nd annual Montery Wine Festival will be held on Oct. 16th at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and on Oct. 18th at the Monterey Fairgrounds in Monterey, Calif. Tickets are $99 for each session. Visit www.montereywine.com for information.