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Where to drink beer in December

Beer and lights at the zoo, holiday markets, pub crawls and more of this month's beer events.

Brewlights; courtesy of the Lincoln Park Zoo

Brewlights; courtesy of the Lincoln Park Zoo

At the start of a new month, it’s time to scout new beer destinations. The holidays are approaching (with all their attendant lights, carols and shopping), so beers will be quite necessary this December. Here’s where to seek out a pint of serenity:

Holiday Ale Festival, Portland, Oregon: Though it’s outdoors during a pretty chilly month, the Holiday Ale Festival draws around 14,000 attendees to its heated tents each year. The five-day fest (Dec. 2-6) includes more than 50 wintertime beers, some brewed exclusively for the festival. Each brewery must bring a special beer, either a past vintage, a rare release or a beer that isn’t normally distributed in the area. Fridays and Saturdays are busiest, so weeknight or Sunday attendance is recommended. Advanced tickets cost $35 online and include admission, 14 beer tickets (good for three full-size beers or 14 tasters) and expedited entry. Advanced VIP tickets cost $100 and offer additional beer tickets, VIP-only tastings, expedited entry all five days, and more.

Brewlights, Chicago: The city’s Lincoln Park Zoo is decked out in 2 million lights throughout the month, but only on Wednesday, Dec. 2 can you enjoy a beer festival among the lights and animals. A dozen breweries including 5 Rabbit Cerveceria, Anchor, Begyle, Temperance and Unibroue will pour samples from eight beer stations (pouring all breweries’ beers) set up throughout the park. Advanced tickets are available until the evening of Dec. 1 for $50; tickets are $60 the day of the event.

Central Oregon Winter Beer Festival, Bend, Oregon: GoodLife Brewing hosts this third annual event on Saturday, Dec. 12, showcasing winter seasonal beers from more than 20 area breweries. Admission is a reasonable $10, which includes four drink tickets (additional tickets are available for $1 each). Bundle up; the festivities take place outdoors in a heated tent with food carts on hand selling food for purchase.

Denver Beer Festivus, Denver: The fourth annual event hits the Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum on Sunday, Dec. 13, bringing together 40 breweries—all with a Denver address. Expect pours from Alpine Dog, Black Shirt, Comrade Brewing, Epic, Former Future, Ratio Beerworks, River North, TRVE and more. Tickets are $40 for general admission; $65 “Feat of Strength” ticket gets you unlimited samples and an hour earlier admission; shuttle transportation from four area breweries is also available for an additional $10 on the ticketing page.

Heavy Seas 20 Beers for 20 Years, Baltimore: On Tuesday evening, Dec. 8, Heavy Seas celebrates two decades of brewing with a bash at Ryleigh’s Oyster Federal Hill featuring 20 Heavy Seas beers including 20 Year Storm, an anniversary bourbon barrel-aged version of Winter Storm imperial ESB. Pay as you go for samples and pints of the 20 beers, or purchase a VIP ticket at the event for unlimited sampling. Raffles will be held at 6 and 9 p.m. to win a “cask build” day at the brewery.

Angel City’s Repeal Day party, L.A.: Oh, the glorious day that Prohibition was repealed! Toast history on Saturday, Dec. 5 with a speakeasy-style party at L.A.’s Angel City. Keep an eye on the brewery’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts for the password, which will gain you entry to the upstairs Mezzanine Lounge for flights of special barrel-aged and cellared beers, as well as samples of the brewery’s sparkling Berliner Weisse.

Pop-up tasting room at Rising Tide, Portland, Maine: The brewery’s tasting room renovations aren’t 100 percent complete yet, but you can check out its progress during the “pop-up tasting room” event Friday and Saturday, Dec. 4-5. Rising Tide will pour beer from jockey boxes with cans and bottles to go, as well as for-sale glassware and apparel perfect for holiday gifting. A food truck will swing by between noon and 5 p.m. Saturday.

Bridgeport’s Ebenezer Pub Crawl, Portland, Oregon: Gather your friends and some holiday sweaters for this pub crawl through Multnomah Villages’ bars on Thursday, Dec. 3. Bridgeport Brewing’s 7th annual event kicks off with a 5 p.m. tapping of 2011 barrel-aged Old Knucklehead at John’s Market, then the party continues on to a handful of other bars. Join for the whole tour or just stop in at one of the bars for a pint of holiday-spiced Ebenezer Ale.

Villains’ 25 Stouts of Christmas, Chicago: If you’re a dark stout lover, beeline for Villains in Chicago’s South Loop for the bar/restaurant’s month-long 25 Stouts of Christmas draft list. Selections are priced by the 10-ounce glass and include Big Sky Ivan the Terrible 2014, Mikkeller Black Stout (at 17.5% ABV, the strongest beer in Scandinavia), AleSmith Vietnamese and Hawaiian Speedway Stouts and more.

4 Hands Holiday Bazaar, St. Louis: Knock off some shopping after a few pints at this Sunday, Dec. 13 event hosted by 4 Hands. Browse candles, cookies, records, leather goods, art and jewelry from a dozen vendors. Admission is free.


Kate Bernot is DRAFT’s beer editor. Reach her at kate.bernot[at]draftmag.com.


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