13 of the Finest Beer Festivals in the World

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13 of the Finest Beer Festivals in the World

The world’s most popular alcoholic beverage also happens to be its most celebrated. Whereas wine and fine spirits tend to be enjoyed in private, or, in the case of “festivals”, accessible to a select group of connoisseurs and industry authorities, beer is the drink of the people. Its festivals, often loud and jubilant affairs, are attended en masse by people of all stations (minors excluded, of course). 

It might not be immediately clear what’s so communal about the beverage, until you consider its origins. The historical beverage of choice at public houses and gardens, and at one time considered a suitable replacement for water (the water of old was often less clean than the mildly alcoholised suds), it quickly became associated with gatherings. 

Carrying the torch from those old public houses and gatherings, the modern beer festival has been adopted worldwide as a celebration of culture, public joyousness and – of course – the bubbly brew itself. 

In previous blog posts, to help you plan your next festival trip we’ve shone a spotlight on worldwide winter festivals and spring festivals, but in lieu of a list on fall festivals, let’s look at beer festivals instead. Often (though not exclusively) a fall affair, these beer festivals capture the spirit of the season turning, all while focusing on a single, shared passion. The beer, of course. 

Of course, these transitional season festivals can swing either way temperature-wise, so when you pack, keep your feet warm with merino wool socks but be prepared with travel t-shirts that breathe on the warmer days. 

Here they are, in no particular order, our picks for the finest beer festivals the planet earth has to offer. 

Oktoberfest

Starting us off with the bang of a polka band drum, the one you already know – the biggest, loudest and most populated beer festival in the world. Started as a way for Bavarians to celebrate the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, Oktoberfest has become a de facto celebration of both the fine Bavarian beer culture and the oncoming autumn. 

Despite its name, Oktoberfest takes place mostly in September. For the last couple weeks in September, and lasting through the German Unity Day on October 3rd, around 6 million people from all the earth’s corners descend on Munich. There are lavish tents tended by Fräuleins carrying large 1-liter steins of locally brewed beer. There are theme park rides, activities and gardens. It needs to be experienced at least once. 

Of course, accommodation can be hard to find when 6 million people flood a city of about 1.5 million, but the city does its best to plan ample lodging. If you plan on going this year, start looking right away. You might have to stay in one of the outlying towns and train in for the day, but if you’re a beer-lover, it will be well worth the effort. 

Great British Beer Festival

Removed by mainland Europe by a channel of water, Britain has developed its own distinct customs and tastes surrounding beer. Rather than the straw-coloured lagers and pilsners inebriating mainland Europe, the Brits have historically brewed their amber-hued cask ales. Yes, beer culture has changed significantly on the island over the past century, and now, more often than not, you’ll find pub-goers drinking imported macro-brews, but the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), an independent organization bent on promoting traditional ale practices, has set up the Great British Beer Festival to keep the culture alive. 

Every year first week of August, the CAMRA hosts what they call the “biggest pub in the world”, with over 1,000 beers, ciders and perries (pear ciders) on offer. The festival takes place amid a backdrop of dramatic Victorian architecture in Olympia London, a massive event space in Southwest London. You’ve missed your 2019 chance already, but stay tuned for 2020 dates and tickets. 

The Czech Beer Festival

Germans get most of the spotlight where Central European beers are concerned, but beer connoisseurs know that beer from Germany’s neighbour Czechia (formerly the Czech Republic) has all the same quality – maybe more. Pilsners are the name of the game here, and the Czech Beer festival has them in spades. 70 Czech beer brands roll out their annual offerings, and the beer list is supplemented by a further 50 international brews.

A rare spring beer festival, the Czech Beer Festival takes place in May in Prague. Even if you’re not that into beer, Prague in the spring should still be enough of a draw, as the tree-lined city streets come alive. It’s tough to tell what the weather will be like in the Czech spring, but luckily Unbound Merino’s merino wool is suitable for any weather – even rain. 

Belgian Beer Weekend

We talked about how connoisseurs regard Czechia’s beer with admiration, but they go absolutely bananas over Belgium. These aren’t your Bud Lights or Coors. The full-bodied, strong and robust beers of Belgium are regular features on RateBeer’s best beers in the world, as much for their complex taste as for their provenance. Trappist beers in particular, which are brewed by monks, are the objects of much excitement. 

If you want to blow your beer mind wide open, the best way to do so would be to travel to Brussels in early September for Belgian Beer Weekend. Held in downtown’s Grand-Place by the association of Belgian Brewers, the event is a who’s who of notable breweries around the country. If Oktoberfest is the festival for the folks, this one is for the beer nerds.

Eurhop Roma Beer Festival

There are worse places to be in early October than the still-warm streets of Rome. And there are worse things to be doing than tipping back a glass of cool beer. You may associate Italy with wine, and you wouldn’t be blamed for doing so (they’re very good at it) but in recent years, with an upcoming generation of internationally minded Italians, craft brewing has taken off. They may not have the clout of Germany or the experience of the Belgians, but they make a good beer. 

Every year, that progress is on display at Eurhop Roma Beer Festival, at the Salone delle Fontane

in the south of the city. Augmented by international beers, the list is impressive. And best of all, once you’ve gulped back a few festival beers, the late night eats are unparalleled – cacio e pepe, anyone? 

Great American Beer Festival

Unlike European countries, many of whose population centres are concentrated to one or a few major cities, the USA is a massive sprawl of metropolises. That makes choosing a beer festival hard. But let’s give it to Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, one of the biggest and, arguably, best in the country. 

While American brewers don’t have quite as long a beer-making tradition as their European counterparts, they more than make up for it in passion. The ingenuity and innovation of American brewers, who sparked the craft beer craze by expanding the definition of what a beer can be, is out in full force at the Great American Beer Festival. Pretty much every beer style is represented here, from the lightest lager to the strongest sour. Head to Colorado in early October – to the Denver Convention Center, in specific – to taste what the 50 states have to offer. 

Victoria’s GCBF

Concurrent with the American craft brew craze, the Canadian craft beer explosion was just as interesting. And it continues to impress. Each province has at least one beer festival, but if you want a wide array of offerings and a beautiful setting, head to Victoria’s Great Canadian Beer Festival. Situated on Vancouver Island, in the scenic Pacific west, Victoria is the perfect natural environment for enjoying a few beers: surrounded by temperate rainforest, abutted by the Pacific Ocean, and with a clear view of the Olympic Mountains. 

In early September at Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park, the outdoor festival predominantly features beer from surrounding British Columbia, a province famous for its hops. As you might expect, IPAs are in abundance here. It can be rainy on the West Coast, so keep the October chill off your back with some out our merino items. 

The Festibière de Québec

The second Canadian entry on this list is a world apart from the GCBF. Québec, the French Canadian province of Canada, has its own, long brewing tradition, in a similar vein as Belgium. They make punchy, complex, often high-ABV beers, with creative twists that betray a North American sensibility. 

To taste the full range of Québec beers, you could head to Montreal’s Mondial de la bière, but here we are recommending the The Festibière de Québec, in the provincial capital of Quebec City. First off, the architecture and ramparts of the old town are reason enough to visit this small piece of Europe transplanted in North America, but if it’s beer you want, the Festibière doesn’t disappoint. It can get chilly in Quebec, so pack those merino wool socks for men and women, just to be safe. 

Oktoberfest of Blumenau

Munich isn’t the only city in the world that has an Oktoberfest. There are, in fact, Oktoberfests all over the world, including in the city of Blumenau in Brazil. The biggest of its kind in South America, and one of the biggest Oktoberfests in the world (the second biggest, some say) Blumenau sees around 600,000 people celebrate annually. Transplanted in Brazil by a German pharmacist back in 1850, the tradition took off – in part because the joyous celebration was a perfect fit for Brazilians, who don’t often miss an opportunity to gather and party, and in part because of the beer.  

Apart from the beer, there are annual competitions here like the Queen of Oktoberfest, which sees candidates facing off in a variety of categories for the titular crown, and “Chopp in Meter Drinkers”, where beer guzzlers face off in a beer drinking contest to see who can drink a meter of beer without drooling. Brazil is still sunny this time of year, but you can keep your feet comfortable at a warm destination with our ultra-light merino wool socks. 

Beerfest Asia

Beer is big business in Asia. Of all the continents, they are the largest producers of the beverage. If you want a window into the beer culture in Asia – well, Southeast Asia, to be precise – head to Beerfest Asia in Singapore, which offers an incredible 600 types of beer. You can get a hangover just considering the options. 

In true Singaporean style, the festival is packed with hawker stalls and street food snacks. They also have games, a carnival and kids’ playgrounds. And perhaps best of all, they have non-alcoholic “doggy” beer, a refreshing sudsy option for your canine companion. 

Qingdao International Beer Festival

You might be familiar with Tsingtao beer, one of the biggest international brands, and one of China’s most beloved beers. It hails from the city of the same name (although with a non-anglicised spelling), which was at one time a German colonial outpost. You can still find districts of German architecture in this seaside Chinese city, as well as the German tradition of beer brewing. 

To celebrate the marriage of cultures and the beer it engendered, Qingdao holds an annual beer festival. As you might expect, Tsingtao beer is the main tap here, although a short list of international macrobrews is available. 

Daegu Chimac Festival

Chimac is a Korean portmanteau of “fried chicken” and “beer”, two best friends that, every July, are celebrated with their own festival. Drawing over a million people to Daegu, South Korea’s fourth largest city, the festival takes place in the scenic, cherry-tree-lined Duryu Park. That makes it the only beer festival, at least to our knowledge, where you can drink beer and eat fried chicken right next to Buddhist temples. 

Great Australasian Beer Spec-tap-ular

By contrast to Asia, Oceania has the smallest beer output in the world, but that owes mostly to its relative size. The passion for craft beer, however, is gigantic. The Great Australasian Beer Spectapular – or GABS for shorts – is a celebration of beers from the continent, especially Australia and New Zealand. Hosted in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland, the festivals take place between April and June, the autumn of the Southern hemisphere. 

At GABS, in addition to the 180 festival beers and ciders, you’ll find live music, circus and sideshow acts, local food stalls and plenty of “boozed” individuals sharing some laughs. It’s often hot in Australia and New Zealand, but stand ready for unfamiliar weather with your trusty Unbound Merino clothing. 

Are there any beer festivals dear to your heart that we missed? Let us know. And with all the sudsy liquid flying around, be sure to pack our quick-drying, stylish merino wool clothes. 

 

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