There was a time, not very long ago, when you could count the number of Atlanta beer festivals on a few fingers. But, now, reflecting the booming Atlanta craft-beer scene, it seems there’s a festival for every season, community and occasion, including four in the next five weeks.
Alan Raines helped start the East Atlanta Beer Festival in 2003 with co-founder Tryon Rosser. The duo launched Hotoberfest in 2008 with the idea of creating an event that would appeal to serious beer drinkers.
They’ve managed to tweak it a little every year since, including making the move from Glenwood Park to Historic Fourth Ward Park in 2012. And over time, Hotoberfest has become the consensus favorite among many Atlanta beer geeks, who praise it for offering vintage and hard-to-find beers, as well as a VIP selection of one-off ales aged in whiskey barrels.
Despite its success, Raines recently admitted that the Hotoberfest name has caused some confusion, especially among those who persist in calling it Hoptoberfest.
“It comes to people’s minds because Hoptoberfest sounds more beer-oriented,” Raines said. “But we thought of Hotlanta and came up with Hotoberfest because it seemed witty and cool and all about how hot the Atlanta beer scene was becoming.”
With the sixth Hotoberfest set for Oct. 5, Raines reflected on some of the changes since 2008.
“The biggest change was that we went from an all-around festival that included a kids area and a live music stage to just a craft-beer festival,” Raines said. “Within that, we pared it down even more to have about 90 percent American breweries.”
Asked for his take on the explosion of craft-beer festivals in metro Atlanta, Raines was surprisingly candid.
“When we started the East Atlanta Beer Festival,” Raines said, “there were only two others, Decatur and the one up around Perimeter Mall.
“Since then, with the addition of all the festivals, primarily as money-generating events, we’ve really tried to add something new every year and dial up our event to be something that stands apart from the rest. And we are one of the few festivals that is 100 percent nonprofit.”
Hotoberfest and other upcoming beer festivals:
Hotoberfest 2013 — Oct. 5
Celebrating six years, this beer geek favorite has settled into Historic Fourth Ward Park on North Avenue. The fest features a consumer-judged craft-beer competition, a VIP tent with cask tastings, plus food trucks and music. Families can have fun in the park without buying tasting tickets. $75 advance VIP; $40 advance/$50 gate general admission. Gate opens noon; VIP tasting 1 p.m.; general admission tasting 2 p.m. 665 North Ave., Atlanta. hotoberfest.net.
Alpharetta Brew Moon Fest — Oct. 5
Celebrate on the streets of historic downtown Alpharetta as the Alpharetta Business Association presents the 3rd annual Alpharetta Brew Moon Fest. Bring your own chair and enjoy beer, wine and food from Alpharetta restaurants available for sale at the city’s party. 6:30-11 p.m. $10. Tables, $110-$130. Food and drink for purchase. Milton Avenue, Alpharetta. awesomealpharetta.com.
Decatur Craft Beer Festival — Oct. 19
This popular community tasting event on Decatur Square has a limited number of tickets sold online and always sells out early. The draw is more than 100 curated American craft beers, showcased along with live music and food for sale from local vendors. Even if you don’t have a ticket, you can enjoy Decatur’s bar and restaurant scene. $40 includes a commemorative tasting glass. Noon-5 p.m. Oct. 20. Decatur Square, Decatur. decaturbeerfestival.org./index.php.
Brewgaloo Beer Festival — Oct. 26
A new fest in McDonough, Henry County, will feature more than 100 craft, import and domestic, beers for samples in 2-ounce swigs. Live music and food trucks, as well as offerings from local restaurants to take the edge off your hunger. Tickets are $45, which buys you you glass, 2-6 p.m. Oct. 26 at 101 Lake Dow Road in the Jason T. Harper Event Center at Heritage Park. http://www.brewgaloobeerfest.com/
Sweetwater Brew Your Cask Off — Nov. 9
Sweetwater invited 90 special guests, including charities, retailers, home brewers, media and celebrities, to create a one of a kind cask ale at the brewery under the watchful eye of their pro brewers. The tasting party includes unlimited cask ale samples, plus Sweetwater’s lineup of beers, brewery tours, music, food, and a wild award ceremony that includes “The People’s Choice” and “The Biggest Loser.” $35 advance/$40 gate general admission. Sweetwater Brewery, 215 Ottley Dr. NE, brewyourcaskoff.com.
The Ponce de Leon Beer Fest — Nov. 16
New this year, the Ponce de Leon Beer Fest takes over the Yaarab Temple located on where else but Ponce de Leon Avenue for an intimate gathering limited to 1,500 beer lovers. Look for food trucks, two music stages and beer offerings with a focus on different styles, plus a special VIP early-bird tasting. 400 Ponce De Leon Ave N.E., Atlanta, theponcedeleonbeerfestival.com.