A beer festival is an event at which a variety of beers are available for purchase. There may be a theme, for instance beers from a particular area, or a particular brewing style such as winter ales.
Festivals can be organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), pubs, brewers, social and sporting societies or charities. CAMRA festivals are run by volunteers under the direction of local branches and the admission fee is reduced or waived for CAMRA members. Pub festivals use professional bar staff and there is usually no entry fee.
Larger British beer festivals are usually held in large indoor venues (Kensington Olympia in the case of the GBBF). Casks of ale from different brewers, numbering in the hundreds, are placed on stillage behind rows of trestle tables. Staff serve beer directly from the cask and take payment in the form of cash or tokens purchased at the entrance. Cooling is achieved using wet sacking or blankets for evaporative cooling or though refrigerated cooling saddles and coils. Glasses are distributed at the entrance to the venue, usually for a small deposit although often included in the entrance fee, often bearing a design specific to the festival. A beer list is usually available, often indicating where in the venue the different casks will be situated. Food is usually available, and entertainments and games such as live music, pub quizzes or tombolas are often organised.
Medium-sized festival are typically held in meeting halls or marquees. These include festivals organised by local CAMRA branches, or by clubs and charities. They may be themed, emphasising beers from a certain region or in a particular style, for instance the National Winter Ales festival.
If a pub is well-provided with handpumps, it can put on a small festival by rotating guest beers rapidly through them. Alternatively a temporary stillage may be set up inside the bar, or in a tent outside. Pub-based festivals usually last a weekend, (in fact, often a long weekend). The pubco Wetherspoons holds simultaneous festivals twice-yearly in all the hundreds of branch in its chain, lasting over two weeks, and using the handpump rotation method. It claims its festivals are Britain's largest. The number of different beers that can be provided in a pub festival ranges from about 15 to about 100.
In all British festivals the beer is sold in quantities of half or full pints. From 2006 the GBBF additionally served beer in "nips" (one-third of a pint), for the benefit of those who wish to sample many beers without consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.
Notable British beer festivals
Beer festivals are held across the United Kingdom. Notable ones include:
- The Great British Beer Festival held annually in August in London is the largest beer festival in the UK organised by the Campaign for Real Ale. The "GBBF", founded in 1977, was attended by over 66,000 people in 2006 when 350,000 pints of ale were consumed over the five days.
- The Peterborough Beer Festival is the biggest outdoor CAMRA real ale festival in the UK and is the second largest beer festival in the UK behind the Great British Beer Festival. It is a 5-day event situated on the Embankment in 3 very large marquees which always takes place in the run up to August Bank Holiday weekend.
- The CAMRA National Winter Ales Festival; held at The Roundhouse, Derby, is designed to showcase beer styles which may not be readily available during the summer festival. Taking place every February, it has also been celebrated in Glasgow, Burton-on-Trent and Manchester.
- The Farnham Beer Exhibition in Surrey, having been held every year since 1977 at the Farnham Maltings, is the longest-running beer festival to be held annually on a single site in the United Kingdom, and every year sells over 29,000 pints of real ale during its 3-day opening.
- The Cambridge Beer Festival, held since 1974, is the longest running beer festival, although it has changed venue three times. Currently, it is held for a week each May in a large marquee erected on Jesus Green in Cambridge. It is the third largest British beer festival behind London and Peterborough. In 2007, it was attended by 30,384 visitors, who drank about 70,000 pints of beer and 194 tubs of cider and perry.[clarification needed]
- The Rotherham Real Ale and Music Festival, held since 1992 is the largest Real Ale Festival in the North of England. In 2011, the festival sold in excess of 85,000 half pints of beer during its four-day opening.
- The Battersea Beer Festival, is a three-day-long annual festival held at the Battersea Arts Centre, Battersea, London, since 1991.
- The York Beer & Cider Festival organised by York CAMRA, is the North of England's largest beer festival, held annually over 4 days in the third week of September in marquees on 150 acres of parkland on York's Knavesmire. The 2014 event was held between 17 and 20 September with over 400 real ales and over 100 ciders.
- The Warwick University Real Ale Festival, organised by Warwick University Real Ale Society, is the largest student beer festival in the country. It has been held annually at the University's Student Union over three days in February since 1979.
In addition, many small festivals are organised by local CAMRA branches, pubs, clubs and charities.
Belgium has a number of beer festivals, including:
- The BAB-bierfestival, held every year in the first weekend of February in Bruges
- The festival held every spring in Leuven (previously in Sint Niklaas and Antwerp) organized by the consumer group Zythos.
- The Belgian Beer Weekend held in Grand Place, Brussels, organized by the Brewer's association.
- Karakterbieren Festival in Poperinge, Belgium's hop-growing capital.
- The Beer Passion weekend held each July in Antwerp, organized by Beer Passion magazine,
- The Christmas beer festival in Essen
- Český Pivní Festival (Czech Beer Festival) is the biggest Czech beer festival, is 17 days long and held every year in May in Prague.
- Pilsner Fest is the big festival held every year in August in Plzeň.
- The Olomoucký pivní festival is held in Olomouc.
- The beer festival Slavnosti piva v Českých Budějovicích is held in České Budějovice.
- Nepomucké pivní slavnosti is festival held in Nepomuk city in Plzeň Region.
- Velký pivní festival v Padochově is held in Padochov city in South Moravian Region.
- Festival of Good Beer - in Wrocław, held every year on the second weekend of June. The third largest beer festival in Europe.
- Beer Geek Madness - in Wrocław
- Poznań Beer Expo - in Poznań
- Festival Birofilia - in Żywiec (liquidated, the last in 2014)
- Chmielaki Krasnostawskie - in Krasnystaw
- Warszawski Festiwal Piwa - in Warsaw
- Bracka Jesień - in Cieszyn
- Beergoszcz - in Bydgoszcz
- Constantly updated list of craft beer festivals in Poland with dates (polishcraft.beer)
Other European countries
- In Belgrade, Serbia, Belgrade Beer Fest takes place every August at Ušće park.
- In Braşov, Romania, a large Beer festival is held every year in October.
- In Copenhagen, Denmark, the big Copenhagen Beer Festival takes place every year in May.
- French festivals are held in Schiltigheim (August) and Felletin (July).
- In Dublin, Ireland, the All-Ireland Craft Beer Festival is held in September every year.
- In Cork, Ireland, the Franciscan Well Easterfest is held annually on the Easter Bank holiday weekend.
- In Karlovac, Croatia, Dani piva, held every year, 10 days starting on last Friday in August
- In Kragujevac, Serbia, Šumadija Beer Open, held every year in June.
- In Zrenjanin, Serbia, Dani piva, held every year in August.
- In Prilep, Republic of Macedonia, Фестивал на пивото (Festival na pivoto) or Пивофест (Pivofest), held every year in July.
- In Riga, Latvia, festival Latviabeerfest (Latvijas Alus Festivāls) is held every year in May.
- In Tallinn, Estonia, festival Õllesummer is held every year in July.
- In Trondheim, Norway, an Oktoberfest is held every second year during the student festival UKA.
- In Solothurn, Switzerland, Solothurner Biertage, held every year, 3 days starts in the last whole weekend in April.
- In Stockholm, Sweden, Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival is held every year in September.
- In Malta, the Farsons Beer Festival, beer festival is held every year in the last week of July.
- In Laško, Slovenia, the Pivo in Cvetje meaning beer and flowers festival is held in the first weeks of July.
- In Bodegraven, Netherlands, the Borefts Beer Festival, held annually in the last week of September. More than 230 different beers by 30 brewers.
- In Helsinki, Finland, the Helsinki Beer Festival is held every year in April.
- The Great American Beer Festival held in Denver, Colorado, started in 1982 and in 2008 had more than 46,000 people attend, with judges selecting medal winners from 2,961 beers entered by 477 breweries.
- On May 12, 2012, the Garden State BrewFest celebrated the best in local (NJ, NY & PA) brewing. The GSBF is NJ's premier outdoor beer festival. Always held Mother's Day Saturday, the GSBF II, May 11, 2013 included VIP experience incorporating beer infused foods and highly sought after beers from around the world.
- The largest and longest running beer festival in New York City is Brewtopia: The Great World Beer Festival.
- The Oregon Brewers Festival has taken place each July since 1988. It is one of the largest beer festivals in the country, attracting more than 85,000 people as of 2014, to Portland.
- The Oktoberfest is the oldest festival in Nashville, Tennessee, held annually since 1980 in the historic Germantown neighborhood. All major German breweries have a presence at the 3 day event. In 2015, approximately 143,000 people attended, making it the largest Fall Festival in the South.
- Philly Beer Week is a 10-day series of beer events starting on the first weekend in June in Philadelphia as a celebration of America's Best Beer-Drinking City. The Hammer of glory was used to tap the ceremonial first keg at Opening Tap on March 6, 2009.
- The Great International Beer Festival is held in Providence, Rhode Island twice annually.
- The KC Beerfest, located in Kansas City, Missouri, provides one of the Midwest's newest opportunities to try the wares of hundreds of different craft brewers from all over the world.
- The Seattle International Beer Festival is a beer festival held annually in Seattle, Washington during the month of July. The festival offers visitors a selection of 100-150 beers from some twenty countries around the world.
- The Great Arizona Beer Festival is the state's longest-running beer festival. Held in Tempe, Arizona since 1990 it features 50 breweries offering more than 200 varieties of frosty suds. The event benefits and is run by Sun Sounds of Arizona, a non-profit providing reading services to the blind. The organization also runs beer festivals in Tucson and Flagstaff.
- Grovetoberfest is Florida's largest beer festival with over 8,000 attendees and over 250 craft beers. The event focuses on craft beer and its culinary relevance. It takes place each October in Coconut Grove, a seaside village in Miami.
- Brewbeque is a craft beer festival held annually in Evansville, IN. It benefits Guardianship Services of Southwestern Indiana.
- The St. Paul Summer Beer Fest is one of St. Paul's favorite beer festivals dedicated to craft beers! Held at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds, this outdoor craft beer festival features sampling from over 100 breweries, live music, food trucks, educational beer seminars, a silent auction benefiting the YMCA of St. Paul, and the fun atmosphere of MN State Fairgrounds.
Beer festivals in Canada include the Great Canadian Beer Festival, which since 1993 (with help from the Victoria chapter of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)) has focused on cask ales from the Pacific Northwest. Since 2003 the festival has been held at Royal Athletic Park on the first weekend after Labour Day. The festival attracts over 60 craft breweries from across BC and Canada, with more than 8000 visitors. The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is a nine-day event in Kitchener-Waterloo, which started in 1969 influenced by the original German Oktoberfest. It is held every October, starting on the Friday before Canadian Thanksgiving and running until the Saturday after. Toronto's Festival of Beer was first held in 1995 at Fort York in Toronto, though has been held at Exhibition Place since 2009. There is also the Lauder Beer Festival which is a much smaller and more exclusive festival held in the North end of Toronto. On May 10, 2010, a group of craft beer enthusiasts launched Vancouver Craft Beer Week, the first "beer week"-type festival in Canada, a format that was begun in Philadelphia in 2008. VCBW spans nine days with events held throughout Vancouver, concluding with a three-day tasting festival. Each year, organizers commission a special VCBW Collaboration Ale with partial proceeds donated to a local charity. Also in 2010, the Ontario Craft Brewers started Ontario Craft Beer Week, a week-long craft beer celebration across the province. The Mondial de la Bière was founded in 1994 in Montreal and attracts around 80,000 people.
The Golden Tap Awards is an annual beer awards event held in Toronto. The awards are sponsored and presented by The Bar Towel, a website and forum dedicated to the discussion and promotion of Toronto's craft and microbrew beer scene.
Other North American countries
- In Mexico, in the cities of Puebla, Mexico City, Mazatlán and Tapachula Oktoberfest is celebrated by the descendants of German immigrants in these cities. The largest ones are held in Puebla and Mexico City where the German community is very important and one can hear German music and be delighted by German food and folk dresses.
- In Costa Rica, every year festivities called Fiestas de Palmares are held in Palmares to raise funds. Even though the drinking of beer is not one of the main events, and despite campaigns to reduce it, the consumption of it reaches levels that are comparable to those from international beer festivals like Oktoberfest and Spring-Break.
- Tasmania, The Tasmanian Beerfest is held on 12 and 13 November 2010. Showcasing over 100 boutique and imported beers at Princes Wharf. It started in 2006. In 2009 over 10,000 people tasted over 100 different beers from around the world and Tamar Valley Beer Festival.
- Queensland has many small celebrations of Oktoberfest and Milking the Cow Beer Lovers Festival, Queensland Beer Week and BeerFestABull. Mainly supported across the local university populations, it has spilled over into local restaurants and pubs, looking to join in the festival.
- Sydney celebrates Oktoberfest at the German-Austrian Society Club in the suburb of Cabramatta as of 2010. This is the first year in 40 years that the Oktoberfest has not been celebrated at the Fairfield Showground and the Australian Beer Festival, Bitter and Twisted Boutique Beer Festival.
- Canberra celebrates Oktoberfest and the Canberra Craft Beer & Cider Festival at the Thoroughbred Park, Lyneham.
- Adelaide celebrates Schuetzenfest in January at Bonython Park just outside the CBD.
- Western Australia Every June Western Australia devotes an entire week to beer WA Beer Week and some other's are Elmar's Food & Beer Festival, Perth Beer Festival, FeBREWary, South West Craft Beer Festival and Sprung in the Alley Craft Beer Festival.
- An annual Oktoberfest Beer Festival used to be held at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds in Flemington, Victoria; after a break of two years another Oktoberfest was celebrated in 2007 at the Dandenong Showground.
- The New Zealand Beer Festival has been run in Auckland and Wellington since 2007. BrewNZ - Beervana is organized and run by the Brewers Guild of New Zealand.
- A huge Oktoberfest is held in the Brazilian city of Blumenau (Oktoberfest of Blumenau, with more than 600,000 visitors in 2004), and many other Brazilian cities founded by Germans have their own Oktoberfest, such as Santa Cruz do Sul (more than 500,000 visitors in 2004), Igrejinha (more than 200,000 visitors in 2006), Rolândia, São José do Cedro, Seara and Itapiranga. They also hold the Brazilian Beer Festival.
- In Argentina, a town called Villa General Belgrano in the Córdoba Province has an Oktoberfest that is well-known and the biggest in the country.
- In Valdivia, Chile host each summer a so-called Bierfest that organized and sponsored by Kunstmann Bier, a local high-quality beer company.
- Llanquihue also in Chile hosts a once a year a Bierfest during summer. The main sponsor is Cerveza Cristal, Chiles largest beer brand.
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