Good Life

Eat and drink your way across the country

The U.S. Oyster Festival in St. Mary’s County, Md., features an oyster shucking competition, where the winner moves on to compete in Ireland.
The U.S. Oyster Festival in St. Mary’s County, Md., features an oyster shucking competition, where the winner moves on to compete in Ireland. Photo provided

Editor’s note: This story is part of the Road Trips special section.

When it comes to food and beverage festivals, the nation is brewing with crafted creations.

Chicago is home to the world’s largest food festival. Hop heads can make the annual pilgrimage to Boulder, Colo.’s, Great American Beer Fest. The Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival links oenophiles to nearly 200 wineries, paired with foods from dozens of restaurants.

But, as many local connoisseurs have found, sometimes there’s no place like home.

The State College Beer Expo, now in its 18th year, promises dozens of breweries, both near and far, for the Aug. 6 event at Tussey Mountain Ski Resort.

“It’s always been a pretty good show since the beginning,” said Charlie Schnable, co-owner and head brewer at Otto’s Pub and Brewery, which started the county’s microbrewery boom in 2002. Since then, several wineries and distilleries have opened, including Barrel 21, an extension of Otto’s. It’s a trend that’s mirrored the state, where dozens of microbreweries, wineries and distilleries have opened since then.

“It’s an awesome time to be a consumer, no doubt about it,” Schnable said.

For a quick sampling of what the region has to offer, Schnable suggests traveling the Central Pennsylvania Tasting Trail, home to a dozen producers of beers, ciders, wines and spirits. Be sure to grab a tasting ticket at any of the locations. Hit them all for a chance to win great prizes.

Philip Jensen, head distiller at Big Spring Spirits in Bellefonte, suggests PA Flavor (April, Harrisburg) and Savor (June 3-4, Washington, D.C.) for festivals focused on beer and food pairings.

“These are two beer fests that you actually do not want to eat much beforehand because there is so much food. Savor is special because every beer poured has a food item paired with it,” he said.

With any festival, Jensen says, he first seeks out samples not available locally before finishing with some old and newfound favorites. He says it’s important to ask for small samples so that you cover more ground while better savoring the options.

CDT Eats & Drinks columnist Anne Quinn Corr says the U.S. Oyster Festival in St. Mary’s County, Md., tops her list of food-based attractions. The oyster shucking competition, where the winner moves on to compete in Ireland, and the cook-off competition are must-sees, as is the Guinness 18-wheeler, tapped out with stout taps.

After you’ve savored these local flavors, be sure to hit the road for these top festivals.

The churchkey state

Philly Beer Week

Why go? Philly beers and food … all week.

When: June 3-12

Where: Philadelphia

Website: www.phillybeerweek.org

Pittsburgh Brew ’n Chew

Why go? Because where else can you find some of the region’s best beers alongside a beer-float bar and a beer and bacon bar?

When: June 18

Where: Monroeville

Website: goodtastepittsburgh.com/pittsburgh-brew-n-chew

Call: 412-421-9859

The Great Tastes of Pennsylvania Wine & Food Festival

Why go? This outdoor campground festival features music, Pa. wines and food and craft vendors.

When: June 25-26

Where: Lake Harmony

Website: www.splitrockresort.com/things-to-do/events/wine-festival/

Call: 800-255-7625

Philadelphia Zoo Summer Ale Festival

Why go? Samples beers among zoo attractions making pit stops at Philly’s best food trucks.

When: July 16

Where: Philadelphia

Website: www.philadelphiazoo.org/Explore/Upcoming-Events/Summer-Ale-Festival.htm

Call: 215-243-5375

Hops, Vines & Wines Festival

Why go? This regional festival pairs regional breweries and wineries. But you’ll have to plan on a 2017 visit. This year, tickets are sold out.

When: July 16

Where: Selinsgrove

Website: www.selinsgrovebrewfest.com/

WineDown Fest

Why go? Hundreds of wine selections, including several local offerings, are uncorked into a souvenir stemless wine glass.

When: Sept. 3

Where: Erie

Website: www.localwineevents.com/events/detail/614110

Call: 412-405-9721

WineFest“alcular”

Why go? Similar to WineDown, with slight changes to the lineup.

When: Oct. 8

Where: Carlisle

Website: www.localwineevents.com/events/detail/629641

Call: 412-405-9682

“HalloWine” Fest

Why go? Similar to WineDown, with slight changes to the lineup.

When: Oct. 15

Where: Altoona

Website: www.localwineevents.com/events/detail/616974

Call: 412-405-9682

U.S. Oyster Festival

Why go? A quaint, down-home festival with the freshest of saltwater treats.

When: Oct. 15-16

Where: St. Mary’s County, Md.

Website: www.usoysterfest.com

Call: 301-863-5015

Festival of Food, Wine and Spirits

Why go? Food and drink is presented and prepared with the help of local and celebrity chefs.

When: Oct. 21-23

Where: King of Prussia

Website: philly.gourmetshows.com/

Bacon and Beer Festival

Why go? Festivals are like anything else: They’re better wrapped in bacon.

When: November (details yet to be announced)

Where: Philadelphia

Website: www.wheretoeat.in/2015-philadelphia-bacon-and-beer-festival/

Venturing out

Savor: An American Craft Beer Experience

Why go? Jensen says “come hungry” because this event puts equal focus on food and beverages.

When: June 3-4

Where: Washington, D.C.

Website: www.savorcraftbeer.com/

Call: 888-822-6273

Taste of Chicago

Why go? Deep-dish pizza, Chicago’s namesake, takes the cake ... or, um, pie.

When: July 6-10

Where: Chicago

Finger Lakes Wine Festival

Why go? Known for both wines and breathtaking scenery, it’s a Napa Valley of the East.

When: July 15-17

Where: Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Website: www.flwinefest.com

Call: 866-461-7223

Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival

Why go? A staggering array of wines, celebrity chefs and events are on display.

When: August 25-28

Where: Los Angeles

Website: www.lafw.com/

Call: 855.433.5239

Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Why go? Many of the nation’s most beloved breweries are based here

When: Sept. 13-18

Where: Bardstown, Ky.

Website: www.kybourbonfestival.com

Great American Beer Festival

Why go: The King of Beer fests

When: Oct. 6-8

Where: Boulder, Colo.

Website: www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com

Call: 888-822-6273

Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival

Why go? This food fest toasts a great cause: ending global hunger.

When: Oct. 13-16

Where: New York, NY

Website: nycwineandfoodfestival.com

Call: 866-969-2933

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