When it comes to beer festivals, our experts agreed: there is an essential triumvirate that everyone’s heard about—and all beer lovers should attend at least once. So, let’s get the big three out of the way.
Great British Beer Festival, London, www.camra.org.uk
Great American Beer Festival, Denver, www.beertown.org
Oktoberfest, Munich, www.oktoberfest.de
Other Festivals Worth Noting
We asked our best-traveled, most-beer-savvy writers, brewers and beer enthusiasts for events around the world that are not as well known as the three above, but are worth attending. They sent enough recommendations to fill your travel calendar for next year and beyond. Have you heard about these great beer celebrations?
International Beer Festival, Berlin-Friedrichshain, Germany, www.bierfestival-berlin.de
Berlin holds a beer festival in early August each year along the Karl Marx Allee. This year it will focus on kölsch and alt beers.
Annual Great Taste of the Midwest, Madison, WI, www.mhtg.org
A great beer festival should have three things—a scenic or historic venue; distinctive, high-quality beers; and appreciative attendees. The Great Taste of the Midwest has all of them. It is held at the sprawling Olin-Turville park on Lake Mendota. The cool, soothing backdrop of the lake provides a perfect setting. The city of Madison does an excellent job of promoting and supporting the festival, with shuttle buses running throughout the day. More than 100 breweries, all from the Great Lakes and upper Midwest region, take part in this annual festival. Some brew special beers for festival goers. Tickets are limited and sell out well in advance.
Peterborough Beer Festival, www.beer-fest.org.uk
Held in three marquees near the river and cathedral, only minutes from the center of town—lovely setting. You’ll find 300 draft real ales, plus traditional ciders and perries, and live bands every evening.
BierIG Beer Festival, Salzburg, Austria, www.bierig.org
The venue is the “Alte Saline” (Old Salt Factory), a building complex on the Pernerinsel (Perner Island) between two arms of the River Salzach in the center of Hallein, a town of 20,000 inhabitants 12 kilometers south of Salzburg. The old town is of special architectural interest. With the goal of representing all facets of Austrian and international brewing, the festival will present 150 different beers of 40 different breweries.
Belgian Beer Festival, Brussels, www.beerparadise.be
Organized by the Belgian brewers association and staged outside their imposing guild house on the Grand Place, this festival starts with a brewers’ mass at the nearby Church of the Madeleine, after which the Knights of the Mashing Fork proceed to the festival.
Unionbirrai Beer Festival, Milan, Italy, www.unionbirrai.com
Stockholm Beer & Whiskey Festival, www.stockholmbeer.se/2003
This festival had the most upscale display areas for each vendor that we’ve ever seen—like a high-dollar trade show. They were like individual bars with plenty of room to stroll around between them. A wonderful slick, magazine-like program (unfortunately for us, in Swedish) was also provided.
Fremont Oktoberfest, Seattle, WA, 206-706-9869, www.freemontoktoberfest.org