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11 great beer festivals of the West

Hot weather inevitably means it's time to fire up the grill and relax with a cold one in the backyard. But when the major labels found at the local market can feel a little overplayed, a day at a local beer festival can get your creative juices flowing again.

To get a taste of the best beer festivals of the West for the summer and fall 2008 season, we've picked the brains of Maryanne Nasiatka and Paul Ruschmann. The husband-and-wife team, who authored the "Michigan Breweries" guidebook to their home state's hop houses, are also the proprietors of Tasked with the job of gathering information -- and eventually visiting -- beer festivals from around the world, they've cultivated the following list of the 11 best celebrations -- because 10 just isn't good enough -- of the frothy alcohol.

North American Organic Brewers Festival
June 27-29, Portland, Ore.

"A celebration of organically brewed beer, with more than 50 beers from breweries in the Cascadia region (the world's organic brewing capital) as well as organic pioneers from other industries. The festival is powered by biodiesel, composts food waste and uses biodegradable tasting cups."

Colorado Brewers' Festival
June 28-29, Fort Collins, Colo.

"Beer from more than 40 Colorado breweries served in a historic downtown setting, with food and live entertainment. Proceeds benefit other events in Fort Collins."

Seattle International Beerfest
July 4-6, Seattle

"A hundred beers from more than 15 countries served in an outdoor Grande Beer Garden."

Oregon Brewers Festival
July 24-27 Portland, Ore.

"North America's largest gathering of independent brewers, with beer from 73 invited breweries. It's a beer lover's paradise in a beautiful waterfront setting."

Monterey Beer Festival
Aug. 2, Monterey

"Beer from more than 50 breweries and a variety of food, with the providers including the Culinary Center of Monterey (which will receive a portion of the proceeds)."

Great Canadian Beer Festival
Sept. 5-6, Victoria, British Columbia

"This year will be the 15th annual event , sporting beer from more than 40 craft breweries from across Canada and the American Northwest."

Telluride Blues & Brews Festival
Sept. 12-14, Telluride, Colo.

"Beer from 50 breweries and music from nationally renown blues artists with mountain peaks for a backdrop, the festival continues in late-night juke joints and after-hours jams." This year's music line up includes Etta James & The Roots Band as well as G. Love & Special Sauce.

Fremont Oktoberfest
Sept. 19-21, Seattle

"More than 70 beers from 35 breweries are served in three beer gardens along the Fremont Ship Canal. There will be a variety of activities, including [live music,] a chainsaw pumpkin carving competition, 5K run and walk, and a 'street scramble' scavenger hunt."

All of the musicians are required to play one German song, which usually ends up being "99 Luftballons," said festival promoter Phil Megenhardt.

San Diego Festival of Beer
Sept. 19, San Diego

"An outdoor downtown venue serving more than 150 beers from 60-plus area microbreweries. This event is organized by the San Diego Professionals Against Cancer."

Fresh Hop Ale Festival
Oct. 4, Yakima, Wash.

"The Yakima Valley produces 77% of America's hops used for brewing. This fifth annual event features beers brewed using 'wet' Yakima hops."

Great American Beer Festival
Oct. 9-11, Denver

"This is America's largest beer festival, with nearly 1,900 beers from more than 400 breweries on the festival floor. The GABF also holds the nation's most prestigious beer competition, with nearly 500 breweries competing in 75 categories."

What other festivals are on this side of the country? Check out the Beer Festival Calendar or send a suggestion to Maryanne and Paul.

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