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September

California Craft Beer Summit

Rub elbows with craft-beer makers and sample California brews in Sacramento

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Beyond being the state capital, Sacramento has staked its claim as one of California’s nerve centers for great craft beer. The annual California Craft Beer Summit, typically held in September, further enhances that status by offering an up-close look at California’s beer-making world—whether you want to start brewing beer like a pro, or just appreciate it with a new level of savvy.

Sponsored by the California Craft Brewers Association, the festival typically lasts three days, with the first two devoted to letting craft-beer pros share tricks of the trade—the kind of insider atmosphere that is enticing whether you dabble in brewing or just like soaking up their energy. On the first day, learn about the mechanics of brewing as well as beer trends, hospitality, and branding. The second day is typically devoted to the nuances of beer creation, from home-brewing methods to pairings and the parameters of beer judging. 

The crowd-pleasing third day usually features the Summit Beer Festival, the largest craft beer festival on the West Coast, which focuses just on tasting, with more than 170 beer makers setting up camp outside the capitol building, often arranged by geographic region so you can simulate a tasting tour of the whole state. Expect plenty of familiar names—like San Diego’s Stone Brewing Co., San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company, and Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company—but the festival is also a nice way to try more local brands, like Sacramento’s artisanal Track 7 Brewing and very small craft breweries that perhaps don’t distribute outside their hometowns.

Granted, Sacramento makes a great beer-themed getaway year round. The area is home to more than 50 breweries and offers fun ways to explore, from pub crawls on the everybody-pedals Sac Beer Bike to tasting excursions on the River Fox Beer Train. Head to The Brewmeister, the home brewing supply store affiliated with Red Bus Brewing Company, to pick up gear and ideas for your own brews at home.

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