Festivals. Remember them? No matter how you define of the word, they exist throughout Alberta, in every season, ranging from million people events like the Calgary Stampede to small town art fairs. However, the past couple of years have been an ordeal for organizers, with lockdowns and supply issues causing havoc to all concerned. As a result, almost all events were cancelled in 2020 and 2021, while a few began to return in 2022.
Listed below are festivals with alcoholic beverages as their main focus. Almost all will have some sort of food component as well, and many will have entertainment, but you attend these events for the adult beverages. With hope that normalcy has returned, here are some of the major beverage festivals scheduled to happen in Alberta (with a few from BC) in the first six months of 2023.
January 19: MS Whiskey Fest, Jack Singer Concert Hall, Calgary
This is Calgary's best single day whisky festival. Master classes are held before the main evening consumer event, where you can sample over 300 whiskies from more than 40 different vendors. Proceeds of this event benefit the MS Society of Canada.
Tickets: $128-163, calgarywhiskyfestival.ca
January 19-22: Victoria Whisky Festival, Hotel Grand Pacific, Victoria, BC
Held in Victoria, BC's inner harbour, this festival is a must for lovers of brown spirits. The combination of multiple master classes, consumer tastings, and dinners brings in experts from around the world to educate those in attendance.
Tickets: $35-195, victoriawhiskyfestival.com
February 10-12: The Jasper Beer and Spirits Festival, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper
Alberta Beer Festivals organizes five festivals throughout Alberta and BC each year. They begin in Jasper, with this combined beer and spirit festival, which includes seminars and other adventures. Food and beverages are all included in the ticket price.
February 17-18: Calgary, BMO Centre
February 24-25: Edmonton, Edmonton Convention Centre
Enjoy this all-inclusive sampling of wines as it returns to both cities. Here you’ll find wine from almost every producing country, along with an array of delectable hors d'oeuvres from local restaurants.
Tickets: $100-107, celebratewinefest.com
March 10-11: Edmonton Craft Beer Festival, Edmonton Expo Centre, Edmonton
Alberta Beer Festival's fastest growing beer festival, with over 500 beers from 100+ breweries along with craft spirits and more, all under one roof. Enjoy educational seminars, explore the Distillery District, and try delicious food from Edmonton’s best restaurants while taking in all the entertainment at this sampling event.
Tickets: $20-35, albertabeerfestivals.com/festivals/edmonton-craft-beer-festival
March 24-25: Grape Escape, BMO Centre, Stampede Park, Calgary
Calgary Co-op Liquor Stores return to Stampede Park with two evenings of sampling all forms of wine, spirits, beers, and more from over 100 producers. Check out some of Calgary's best food trucks and attend one of the educational seminars. Your ticket includes all your food and beverage samples.
Tickets: $65, coopwinespiritsbeer.com/grape-escape
March 31-April 1: Revelstoke Beerfest, Revelstoke Mountain Resort, BC
Alberta Beer Festival dips its toe into BC for the first time with the Revelstoke Beerfest. Explore craft beers and spirits from BC and beyond over three different sampling sessions.
Tickets: $30, albertabeerfestivals.com/festivals/revelstoke-beerfest
April 14-15: Okanagan Fest of Ale, Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, Penticton, BC
Spring comes early to the Okanagan, and one of Penticton's best events is the annual Okanagan Fest of Ale Craft Beer and Cider Festival with its unique indoor/outdoor venue. Over 65 craft brewers and 175 craft beers, ciders and cask ale make this one of largest beer festivals in the Pacific Northwest.
Ticket Price: $35-50, festofale.ca
April 22-30: Vancouver International Wine Festival, Vancouver Convention Centre West, Vancouver, BC
This is western Canada's largest and longest running salute to wine. Now in its 44th year, over three dozen events are staged all over town, with the main tasting expo happening at the Vancouver Convention Centre. This year expect 152 wineries from 17 countries, with the spotlight on South American wines.
Tickets: $50-575 depending on event, vanwinefest.ca
May 5-6: Calgary International Beerfest, BMO Centre, Stampede Park, Calgary
This is the festival that began it all for Alberta Beer Festivals. With 700+ beers from 200+ breweries, the Calgary International Beerfest is now Canada’s largest beer festival, but it is much more than that. Beyond beer, there are ciders, meads, RTDs and spirits in the Distillery District. Brew master and Cooking with Beer seminars will educate you, some of Calgary’s best restaurants will feed you, and live music on multiple stages will entertain you.
Tickets: $20-$35, albertabeerfestivals.com/festivals/calgary-international-beerfest
May 20-21: YYC Caesar Festival, Big Four Building, Stampede Park, Calgary
The May long weekend belongs to the Caesar, probably Canada's most famous drink. YYC Caesar Fest returns for it sophomore year, with events happening Saturday evening and the Ultimate Caesar Sunday Party being held during the brunching hours for optimum tasting. This is a sampling event with beer and other spirits also being offered.
Tickets: $25, calgarycaesarfest.com
Look for festivals from July to December 2023 in the next issue of Culinaire.