When Good Beer Week started three years ago, there were 50 events on the program. This year, 200 will be held between May 17 and 25. The week’s explosive popularity is easy to understand. Most of the events are on at pubs, and a good number are free. At the other end of the scale, degustations and masterclasses cater for punters after a truly exceptional beer experience. With the sheer size of the program, choosing where to go and what to drink can be tough. Here, we help you narrow it down.

I want to try new beers:

Pint of Origin: Western Australia, The Royston Hotel, Richmond

The other states may have caught up, but WA was the first to do craft beer properly, way back when “boutique” was still the word of choice. For the whole week, the Royston will turn over their taps to these early adopters. The widely-available Little Creatures is a good start, but this is an opportunity to discover the full breadth of WA’s beer scene.

May 17 to 25, 2014

Pint of Origin: Victoria, The Great Britain Hotel, Richmond

Victoria may well be leading the nation's craft beer charge nowadays. Even if you live here, there are new breweries and beers popping up all the time, which makes this week-long celebration of local drops a must.

May 17 to 25, 2014

Pint of Origin: USA, The Great Northern Hotel, Carlton North

America is arguably the granddaddy of craft beer, even if it didn't invent the concept. Today, there are more than 2000 microbreweries in the States, giving the country an unparalleled range, from Sierra Nevada's traditional Bavarian wheat, all the way to Rogue's chocolate, peanut butter and banana ale. This is the best place to try some.

May 17 to 25, 2014

Mystery Cellar Dwellers, The Local Taphouse, St Kilda

Every day of GBW, The Taphouse will debut a rare international beer in Australia. The selections are bound to be strong, and likely won’t be available again.

5–7pm, May 17 to 25, 2014

The Madness Continues, Rockwell and Sons, Fitzroy

Using ingredients like truffles, watermelon and chilli, Moondog has brewed some of Australia’s most interesting beers to date. At this rocking street party, it will be joined by its US equivalent, Rogue, plus oysters, caviar and barbequed meats. If you have an adventurous palate, there’s no better opportunity to indulge it this GBW.

7–10pm, May 17, 2014

Dial +961: A Lebanese Experience, Mr Wolf

961 was literally founded in a warzone. Fed up with his country's average beer, Mazen Hajjar took to his kitchen during the 2006 siege of Lebanon and began brewing. Today, 961 makes a superb IPA spiced with za'atar, sumac and mint. Considering the brand is only just getting a foothold in Melbourne, this is a good chance to sample its full range, plus Mr Wolf's celebrated pizzas.

2pm–late, May 18, 2014

Prickly Moses Barrelfest, The Royal Standard Hotel, West Melbourne

Despite its extensive use in other types of alcohol-making, barrel-ageing doesn’t get so much attention from beer producers. With paddles containing seven different brews, the crew from the Otways will show just how wrong the status quo is.

2pm–late, May 19, 2014

The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, The Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton

There’s no larger event on the program. Offering 100 exclusive beers, a food market, brewery stalls, beer seminars and entertainment, SpecTapular is like GBW itself rolled into a few hours.

12–4pm and 6:30–11pm, May 23 to May 25, 2014

I want to eat food matched with beers:

Mega Dega II, Pope Joan, Brunswick East

Pairing four eminent chefs with six eminent brewers, this collision of food and beer is likely to be one of the week’s real highlights. Chefs are Joseph Abboud (Rumi), Rob Kaboord (Merricote), Rohan Anderson (Whole Larder Love) and Darren Purchese (Burch and Purchese). The beers come courtesy of Matt Houghton (Boatrocker), Mazen Hajjar (961 Beer), Frank Peifer (Weihenstephan), Brian Thiel (Renaissance), Shawn Sherlock (Murray's), and Andrew Gow (Mornington Peninsula Brewery).

6:30–10:30pm, May 24, 2014

Brew vs Cru, Vue de Monde, Melbourne

In another of the week’s stand-outs, Vue de Monde will be host a dinner pitting Garrett Oliver, world-renowned beer author and food-matching expert, against Martin Spedding, owner of Mornington Peninusula winery Ten Minutes By Tractor. It’s rare that two such experts are united with dishes from Vue de Monde, so don’t miss out.

12:30–3:30pm, May 18, 2014

Artisan Beer and Charcuterie, The Station Hotel, Footscray

With one of the best steak menus in Melbourne, The Station is the unsung jewel of the West. You’re in safe hands with the selection of German, Italian and Spanish smallgoods it’s offering for the duration of the week.

12–9:30pm, May 17 to 25, 2014

Beer 'n' Butchery, Holgate Brewhouse, Woodend

The V/Line runs right into Woodend, which is great if you don’t live close by. From the station, it’s a five minute walk to the Holgate brewpub. At this hands-on event, the crew will bus you to Jonai Farms and host a butchery lesson, before putting on a meat and beer-fuelled lunch. If you’ve never been to Holgate, trust us, they know a thing or two about food.

9am–4pm, 19 May, 2014

Going Large II, Rockwell and Sons, Fitzroy

Founded in 1996, Mountain Goat is rightfully the state’s most successful craft brewery. Here, they’ll unveil a host of malt-driven (rather than hop-) beers, matched with a “multi-course feast of meat”. The beers might appear at Mountain Goat’s Richmond bar at a later date, but why take the chance?

6:30–10:30pm, 18 May, 2014

Beer & Cheese: Crazy?, Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder, Richmond

When it comes to cheese, beer is a better match than wine, say some industry heads. With the help of 3 Ravens and Mash Brewing, Richmond Hill is determined to prove it. Seeing how most of us have access to little more than supermarket cheese, this is an experience that would be hard to do yourself.

7–11pm, May 21, 2014

The Cheese & Cask Ale Experience, The Local Taphouse, St Kilda

Unfiltered and unpasteurised, cask ale is the most rustic of craft beers. Pair the style with cheese, and you have a traditional experience of sorts. Unless you’re willing to install a beer tap, this one is even harder to do at home.

7–9pm, May 22, 2014

Hitachino at Heide, Cafe Vue, Bulleen

Forget Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo. With its clever European/ Japanese hybrids, it’s breweries like Hitachino which really fly the flag for Japanese beer. It’s not every day such a prestigious brand comes to Melbourne to discuss its 180-year history, much less accompanied by food like Café Vue’s, so take advantage.

7pm–late, May 23, 2014

High Tea, Grossi Florentino, Melbourne

There are dozens of GBW week events matching beer with savouries, but this is one of the few taking on sweets. Given that dessert beers are generally expensive and harder to come by, the tastings offered here are a big drawcard.

2:30–5pm, 24 May, 2014

I want to learn about beer:

Beer 101 – Masters, Little Creatures, Fitzroy

Outside of GBW, you could learn to brew by attending a workshop, discover the history of beer by reading online, and teach yourself about the effect of glassware by buying a whole lot and doing some testing. Or, you could just attend this two hour session and do the whole lot at the same time. We suggest the latter.

3–5pm, 17 May, 2014

Brew-in-a-Bag Workshop, Preston Shire Hall, Preston

Darebin might be this city’s best council for supporting all things home-made, and this free home-brewing workshop is a prime example.

12–1pm, 17 May, 2014

Brewers and Chewers, The Local Taphouse, St Kilda

Throughout GBW, it’s unlikely you’ll have a better opportunity to get close to a star brewer than here. Each brewer is seated at a different table: when the bell rings, they all switch seats. In between, the public has a chance to pick their brains.

7pm–10:30pm, May 21, 2014

I want to do something different.

Global Brewer Face-Off, The Terminus Hotel, Fitzroy North

An Italian, an Englishman, a Dane and two Americans walk into a pub. There’s no punchline, just a crowd of people voting for or against their beers, and crowning one of the 14 champion in a round robin knockout.

Good Beer Scavenger Hunt, The Fox Hotel, Collingwood

Finding clues, solving puzzles and competing in street karaoke – this is a pub crawl with a difference. You could organise one yourself, but this will be much more fun; maybe the most GBW has to offer.

6pm–late, May 22, 2014

Red Ball Snooker Shootout, Red Triangle, Fitzroy

At this Red Hill-sponsored snooker tournament, the winner will take home a stack of beer. People who don’t want to play can stand on the sidelines, downing Red Hill brews and munching food from Phat Brats and Shawcross Pizza. Even if you take away the snooker, it sounds like fun.

7pm–10:30pm, May 21, 2014

Good Beer Week runs from May 17 to May 25, 2014