The fourth installment of Seattle Beer Week happens May 10 through 20, and the official event calendar is already filling up with beer dinners, cask-o-ramas, and other shindigs celebrating the pairing, production, investigation, education, and consumption of this fine beverage.

“It seems like every city has a beer week now,” says Ian Roberts, one of the events three organizers. “It didn’t seem that way four years ago.” Back then, says Roberts, the national beer community was more focused on the East Coast, and all but ignored the Northwest. What a difference four years makes.

Unlike some other cities’ beer celebrations, Seattle anoints an official brew for its 11-day week of beer. This year Elysian brewed a Split Shot espresso milk stout made with Lighthouse coffee. The label states that “Beer and coffee are Seattle siblings, jealously dividing the day.”

These days Roberts spends most of his time at The Pine Box, the excellent funeral-home-turned-beer bar he recently opened on Capitol Hill. His establishment is holding a can derby, similar to a pinewood derby except participants make tiny cars out of beer cans rather than wood.

Other standouts on the schedule include the Sour Fest at Brouwer’s Café and the pig roast at Quinn’s, which has doubled its capacity in response to the crushing demand for its beer and bottomless platters of pork.

If you want to shell out for a beer dinner, the food and drink offerings are usually a tremendous value. However many events are of the free, drop-in variety. And plenty of them occur in neighborhood restaurants and non–beer geek bars. Beer Week is a great opportunity to get acquainted with an unfamiliar brewery or beer style, or figure out what exactly a firkin is. As Roberts says, “You can almost not change your life and still run into a Beer Week event.” Though it’s definitely worth changing your life just a little to add some of these outings to your drinking agenda. Check the calendar regularly, as bars, restaurants, and breweries add new events.

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