Numerous beer festivals are held around the world, where beer lovers come to drink, eat, and party. From Oktoberfest in Germany to Qingdao in China, this article will take you through some of the most euphoric beer festivals of the world.
Beer has been brewed and consumed for about 7000 years now. Arguably, it is called the third most popular drink after water and tea. In fact, beer is so popular that there are numerous festivals commemorating exceptional brewers, bringing together beer lovers from around the world. If you are someone who wants to taste different varieties of beer in the company of thousands of people, you wouldn’t want to miss out on the beer festivals that are hosted around the world.
Beer festivals promote certain special or locally brewed beers, and visitors get the opportunity of sampling some of the finest beers from around the world. Beer festivals are also well-known for the mix of delicacies that is spread out for the visitors. To make it more interesting, these festivals often host live bands, DJ, comic performances, and beer drinking competitions, giving the whole festival a ‘party-like’ atmosphere. So, without further ado, let’s proceed to find out the world’s biggest beer parties!
Famous Beer Festivals
Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Month(s): September, October
Duration: 16 Days
In 2013: September 21 to October 6
Oktoberfest was first hosted in Munich in 1810, to commemorate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Initially, the festival was held in October, but it was later decided to hold the festival in September, owing to better weather conditions.
It is reported that an estimated 6 million people attend Oktoberfest every year, consuming 1.5 million gallons of beer in the 16 days of the festival.
Initially, beer was not a part of Oktoberfest, instead, a horse race in the presence of the Royal family was the concluding event. An agricultural show, along with carnival booths, was added to the event later. Beer became a part of Oktoberfest only in 1880. While horse races have ceased to be a part of the festival since 1960, the agricultural show is held every four years. Due to wars and epidemics, the festival has been canceled twenty-four times so far.
There is a wide variety of beers available to revelers at Oktoberfest. However, the beer served needs to satisfy certain regulations. Firstly, it needs to conform to the Reinheitsgebot standard – a German purity law. Secondly, it needs to be brewed withing the city limits of Munich. To accommodate millions of people at the festival, impermanent structures are created. These structures are known as tents. Every year about thirty-four tents are erected, which can seat around 100,000 people. The beer served at the Oktoberfest has a higher alcohol content than the beer available in the US. People who overestimate their ability to drink and pass out are known as Bierleichen – German for beer corpses!
People who really want to enjoy their drinks in a tent should try to book in advance, as majority of the seats are pre-booked as early as January every year. According to the rules of the Oktoberfest, one can’t order a drink inside a tent if he is not “associated” with a table, which means, if you befriend somebody who is seated, you can very well order drinks for yourself. However, if you are standing and are tough on luck as far as associating yourself with a table is concerned, you may well have to return from the tent without having a beer. Sounds gloomy, but the best way to ensure that you don’t experience this situation is to plan early.
One important tip for revelers without a reservation is to visit the tents in the morning on a weekday, as on weekends, it is extremely difficult to get a table.
The delicacies and the drinking culture varies with each tent, so it is important that you know about the tents and their cuisine in advance. The legal age for drinking beer in Germany is sixteen, so don’t be surprised if you see some passed out juvenile faces in the crowd!
Out of the thirty-four tents erected at the Oktoberfest, fourteen are massive and can hold anywhere between 3,000 to 10,000 people each.
Although Oktoberfest is a carnival and a meeting point for beer lovers from around the world, people who don’t like beer can busy themselves with wine or other soft drinks. The Bavarian food served in the festival is truly amazing, and it can be one of the highlights for teetotalers. There are a variety of rides, street parades, souvenir stalls, etc., that one can look forward to in the festival. Beer is served in one-liter glasses, known as Maß (pronounced ‘mass’). Although the rates vary from tent to tent, the average price for one Maß is around 10 Euros ($13).
Olympia, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 5 days
In 2013: August 13 to 17
The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) is organized by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). It is an annual event that has been held since 1977, and offers people a chance to taste their favorite beers, ciders, ales, and perries from some of the most well-known breweries of United Kingdom. GBBF is publicized as being the “biggest pub in the world,” and according to estimates, more than 50,000 people attended the festival in 2012. Along with offering a wide variety of national and international beer brands, the festival also promotes the local brewing industry by awarding the Champion Beer of Britain to the participating breweries. To keep the kids occupied while you taste some of the finest beers from around the world, there are special family rooms, equipped with video games, toys, soft drinks, etc.
Qingdao, Shandong, China
Duration: 16 days
This year: August 10 to 25
Qingdao International Beer Festival can be thought of as the Oktoberfest of Asia. This annual event has been held for the last twenty-two years, and this year, the festival will commence from the 10th of August. The festival offers revelers a chance to taste local Chinese brews, but international brands such as Beck’s, Carlsberg, Budweiser, Tiger, etc., are also offered.
According to estimates, around 3.8 million people attended the festival last year. There are a number of events that are spread over the sixteen days of the festival. These include the opening ceremony, concert, artistic parade, drinking competition, beer tasting, etc. The beer served at the festival is complemented with some great Chinese and Western cuisines. Music is an integral part of the festival and several local bands perform during the event. People can sing to the beats of the karaoke, and can even make a personalized CD of their performance! The beautiful Shilaoren beach is a ten-minute walk from the festival site, and adds to the attraction of the festival.
Denver, Colorado, United States
Duration: 3 days
In 2013: October 10 to 12
When you talk about beer, you can’t leave the Americans out! Started by a nuclear engineer Charlie Papazian in 1982, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has gone on to become one of the biggest beer festivals in America. The festival is organized by the Brewers Association and this time around, they promise to offer more than 2700 different types of beer to visitors. The festival also hosts a beer competition, in which the best brewers from America are chosen and given gold, silver, and bronze prizes in numerous categories. This year too, around 50,000 people are expected to throng to Denver for the annual American beer fest.
Green Point, Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 3 days
In 2013: November 22 to 24
The Cape Town Festival of Beer is an annual event held at Hamilton’s Rugby Hall in Cape Town, South Africa. The festival showcases more than 200 local and international beer brands and is known for the delicious cuisines that are laid out for the revelers. Apart from the beer, there are other entertaining things that one can indulge in, such as music, live rugby matches, guided tours, beer competition, etc.
Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Duration: 1 day
In 2013: April 6 (held)
Getting to taste some really good beer from more than 80 breweries on a Hollywood movie set can be an appealing thought for many beer lovers. This is exactly what brings crowds of over 8000 to the Los Angeles Beer Festival, which is held on the movie lot of famous Paramount Studios. The festival has been organized by Drink Eat Play annually since 2009. The festival offers revelers the chance of tasting beer from breweries like Samuel Adams, Newcastle, Angel City Brewing, and SoCal Beer company. The festival is well complemented by live music bands, piano duets, and some cool munchies. Tickets cost $40 and cover unlimited beer and parking, although you need to pay for the food.
Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 3 days
This year: October 25 to 27
The Bokbierfestival is one of the biggest beer festivals in Netherlands. The festival has been around for the last 35 years, having been held first time in 1978. The festival is organized by Promotie Informatie Traditioneel Bier – an organization which aims at preserving and promoting beer culture in Netherlands. The festival has grown from being hosted for the first time in a cafe in Amsterdam, to an annual national event with around 10,000 visitors. The highlight of the festival is the traditional bock beer, a very strong and dark beer. Bock beer has German origins, and the Dutch variant, which is on offer during the festival, is called ‘bockbier’. It is a seasonal beer brewed extensively in the Netherlands. Entry costs to the festival hover around €10 ($13) and each beer is around €2 ($2.50).
Sheridan Suite, Manchester, Britain
Duration: 4 days
In 2013: January 23 to 26
National Winter Ales Festival is also organized by Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). This year, the festival was held from the 23rd to 26th of January at the Sheridan Suite in Manchester. The festival brings together brewers from Britain to compete for the Champion Beer of Britain Award. The festival offers revelers a chance to taste more than 300 brews from across the globe. From 2014, the festival will be held in Derby, details for which will be released by CAMRA later. As far as beer lovers in Manchester are concerned, they don’t need to lose heart as the organizers are planning to host a Manchester Beer and Cider Festival in the surroundings of the National Cycling Center.
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Duration: 2 days
In 2013: September 6 to 7
The Great Canadian Beer Festival has been around for the last nineteen years and this year, it will be held on the 6th of September. This year around, the festival will showcase more than 55 breweries from Canada and America. Visitors have the chance of exploring some of the finest dishes of British Columbia, along with some live music and entertainment.
Market Place, Brussels, Belgium
Duration: 3 days
In 2013: September 6 to 8
Belgium is known all over the world for the range of beer it offers to tourists. The Belgian Beer Weekend promises to offer the varied choice of colorful Belgian beers to revelers in the festival, which has been around for the last fourteen years. The festival is jointly organized by The Belgian Brewers Association, Mashtaff of the Knights, and the City of Brussels. The festival offers more than 350 varieties of Belgian beer, along with some of the famous cuisines of Belgium.
Other Notable Beer Festivals
- Mondial de la Bière in Montreal, Quebec, Canada – May 29 to June 2
- Czech Beer Festival, Prague, Czech Republic – May 16 to June 1
- Pilsner Fest, Czech Republic – October 5 to November 10
- Cannstatter Volksfest, Stuttgart, Germany – September 27 to October 13
- Oregon Brewers Festival – July 24 to July 28
- New Zealand Beer Festival, Auckland, New Zealand – 23 March (held)