With fall approaching, you may hear talk of pumpkin spice lattes and apple cider. But fans of beer and wine know that this time of year means a whole host of events dedicated to toasting these classic adult beverages.
But as we head into the last few months of 2023, raise a glass and mark your calendar for these wine and beer festivals happening across the state. Cheers!
Iowa Wine & Cider Festival – Aug. 26
When: Aug. 26, 1 to 4 p.m.
Jasper Winery in Des Moines is the host of this year’s Iowa Wine & Cider Festival which celebrates Iowa’s grape and apple harvest season. Samples from more than 20 Iowa wineries and cideries will be offered. Plus there’s live music, food trucks, lawn games, educational sessions, and vineyard and orchard tours.
Independence BrewBQ – Aug. 26
Where: Riverwalk Park, Independence
When: Aug. 26, 12-10 p.m.
Tickets: $35 to $50, https://www.brewbq.org/
Hosted at Riverwalk Park, this year is the 17th annual Independence BrewBQ which pairs up BBQ–from at least four different pit masters–and beer for a day full of fun. This event is a fundraising event for the charity partners selected yearly. Admission to the park is free to enjoy the entertainment, but tickets can be purchased to enter the Craft Brew Zone, featuring more than 100 unique brews.
Iowa Craft Beer Bash at Millstream Brewing – Sept. 3
Where: Millstream Brewing, Amana
When: Sept. 3, 12 to 4 p.m.
Tickets: $45 to $60, https://millstreambrewing.com/event/iowa-craft-beer-bash-at-millstream-brewing-co/
If you are a fan of craft beers brewed in Iowa, then don’t miss the Iowa Craft Beer Bash. Hosted by Millstream Brewing in Amana, your ticket gets you unlimited beer, cider and beverage tastings from more than 50 breweries in the state. During the first hour with the purchase of a VIP ticket you can also enjoy a special barrel-aged tasting from Millstream. There’s live music by Exit 185 and the DTKK Polka Band and food trucks will be on site for tasty eats. Tickets sold out last year so snag one early.
BrewNost – Sept. 15
Where: National Czech and Slovak Museum, Cedar Rapids
When: Sept. 15, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: $55 to $150, https://ncsml.org/ncsml-events/brewnost/
This international beer festival is the major annual fundraising event for the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. It’s grown in popularity every year and is a big draw for beer lovers in Eastern Iowa. Attendees enjoy food from the area’s finest restaurants, plus sip on drinks from local breweries and distilleries, along with international beers, wine, and spirits. The Czech Plus Band sets the perfect festival mood with their entertainment throughout the evening. And if you are feeling lucky, snag a raffle ticket and you might just win a trip to Prague so you can take your beer-tasting hobby on an international adventure.
Marion Oktoberfest – Sept. 16
Where: Seventh Avenue, Marion
When: Sept. 16, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tickets: $40-$60, https://www.marioncc.org/oktoberfest.html
This Oktoberfest celebration is relatively new to the state, but it’s packed with all the fun you’re used to finding at just such a beer-loving event. The festival takes place on 7th Avenue in the heart of Marion’s historic district, Uptown Marion. Patrons receive a commemorative tasting glass so they can walk around and sample beers from breweries across the state. Plus, there’s entertainment, games–stein hoisting!–and costume contests, so come looking the part.
Dubuque Oktoberfest – Sept. 17
Where: Q Casino, Dubuque
When: Sept. 17, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tickets: Free admission, suggested donations for fundraising, https://dbqoktoberfest.org/
Held at the Q Casino Back Waters Stage on the banks of the Mississippi River, this one-day event helps the tri-state area celebrate German heritage. Traditional German foods are served along with brews. There’s music, dancing, family-friendly entertainment, and even weiner-dog races. The event benefits campers at Camp Albrecht Acres, so you can enjoy a stein of beer–or two–to benefit a good cause.
Des Moines Oktoberfest – Sept. 22-23
Where: Water Works Park, Des Moines
When: Sept. 22, 3 p.m to 1 a.m., and Sept. 23, 12 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Tickets: $25 to $35
(image from https://www.oktoberfestdsm.net/)
As they like to say, “‘tis the season to weisen.” One of the oldest Oktoberfest events in the state, this year Des Moines celebrates its 18th annual festival. Held in Water Works Park over two days, there’s an extensive selection of German and craft beers and German cuisine. A pretzel necklace is also a key accessory. The entertainment is always a great draw, including a beer puppeteer, live music, thrilling bier maiden and stein holding competitions, and–new this year–a Silent Disco featuring 12 talented DJs.
Guttenberg Germanfest – Sept. 22-23
Where: Guttenberg (you’ll find it)
When: Sept. 22, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sept. 23, 8:30 a.m. to midnight
Tickets: Free admission, https://www.guttenbergiowa.net/germanfest.html
This year is the 32nd annual event where the town of Guttenberg comes together to celebrate its German heritage. Check out the home brewing contest, then make time to enjoy the open-air festival market, festival tent, biergarten, dinners each night, polka lessons, stein contests, German music, wiener dog races, and more.
Winefest Des Moines Grand Tasting – Sept. 22
Where: Hotel Fort Des Moines
When: Sept. 22, 6 p.m.
Tickets: $90 to $140, winefestdesmoines.com
This event promises to showcase the finest foods and wines you can find in Central Iowa. Chefs from Des Moines’ top-notch restaurants and caterers prepare hearty hors d’oeuvres that are then paired with high-end wines from wineries and importers from around the world. Held at the Hotel Fort Des Moines in the heart of downtown, it’s an an evening filled with the finest cuisine, exquisite wines, and a warm community of wine lovers.
Northside Oktoberfest and Iowa City Brewfest – Sept. 23
Where: North Linn Street, Iowa City
When: Sept. 23, noon to 10 p.m.
The northside neighborhood in Iowa City is the place to be in late September. As part of the Northside Oktoberfest, Iowa City Brewfest is held, with only 700 brewmaster tickets available for sampling (hint: buy your tickets early). There’s an outdoor bier hall to enjoy as well with a $15 commemorative mug that offers patrons the option to purchase beverages from the local businesses to enjoy outdoors during Oktoberfest. The festival is free and open for anyone to walk through and there is entertainment and fun for the whole family. All the area businesses are open serving special festival menus. Bring the kids along to enjoy their own Sodafest, where they can sample a variety of sodas and take part in fun activities and games.
Oktoberfest Waterloo – Sept. 29-30
Where: Anton’s German Bier Garden and downtown Waterloo
When: Sept. 29-30
Tickets: free admission, https://www.iowaoktoberfest.com/
Willkommen to Waterloo! This city’s German heritage festival takes place around Anton’s German Bier Garden on East 4th Street. It features live music, plenty of steins of beer, and a whole host of fun contests, including yodeling, keg rolling, and even a Barktoberfest dog parade. So don’t be too shy to slip on your dirndls and lederhosen and join in the festivities.
Oktoberfest Amana Colonies – Sept. 29-Oct. 1
Where: Amana Festhalle Barn, Amana
When: Sept. 29 to Oct. 1
Tickets: $10 to $15, https://amanacolonies.com/things-to-do/festivals/oktoberfest/
Spending time in the Amana Colonies’ Festhalle will make you feel like you’ve been transported from Eastern Iowa straight to Germany. Perhaps one of the best-known Oktoberfest celebrations in the state, this weekend-long festival includes plenty of polka, games, and pints of beer. But it’s not just the beer people enjoy. Grab an Amana Colonies Meat Shop & Smokehouse brat, along with pork trotters, sides, and desserts. You can also purchase a ticket to snag a pint from the Official Keg Tapping Pre-party at the Amana Heritage Museum.
Grimes Oktoberfest – Oct. 1
Where: Heritage Park, Grimes
When: Oct. 1, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tickets: Free, https://www.grimesiowa.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=352
Grimes is ready for their first Oktoberfest this year. Partnering with Destination Grille, which will provide the Oktoberfest specialties, beer and food, the inaugural fest will also feature live music, a bags tournament, a keg squatting contest and the City of Grimes’ very own sausage toss! Come out to Heritage Park and have some fun. Prost!
Harvest Festival – Oct. 7
Where: Main Street, Clear Lake
When: Oct. 7, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets: $35 to $75, https://clearlakeiowa.com/events/harvest-festival/
Main Street in Clear Lake is the perfect spot to celebrate the season. This event not only features wine and beer tastings–make sure to pre-purchase your souvenir bag that includes a tasting glass–but also includes a huge outdoor farmers market, vendors to shop, and a variety of entertainment. Plus there’s a homemade salsa competition and grape stomping contest. If you are the active type, you can even start your morning with the Champagne 5K fun run/walk!
This was updated Aug. 28 to add information about Grimes Oktoberfest.
by Katie Mills Giorgio
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