Published on December 7th, 2012 | by Chris Wotton1
The ten best beer festivals in 2014
It’s that time when most of us are travelling to Costco to buy every crate of beer under the sun, so with that in mind here are the world’s best beer festivals to head to in 2013.
#1 Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany
The world’s favourite and most popular beer festival, Oktoberfest descends on Bavaria at the end of September each year. Lasting over a fortnight, more than six million people attend each year. In 2010 over 7 million litres of beer were consumed, including 150,000 litres of non-alcoholic beer, along with 90,000 litres of wine! There is no admission fee, while beer prices hover around the €8,50 mark for a 1 litre stein glass, just over two pints. In 2013, Oktoberfest runs from 21 September until 06 October. www.oktoberfest.de
#2 National Winter Ales Festival – Manchester, UK
The UK’s Campaign for Real Ale organises this annual festival in Manchester, which showcases the best of the UK’s winter ales and acts as a smaller sister to the Great British Beer Festival which takes place in London over the summer. The Champion Beer of Britain Awards take place as part of the festival, for which nominations are selected from regional panels and then put through rounds of blind tasting at the festival itself. Recent winners include the Hop Back Brewery Entire Stout. The 2013 National Winter Ales Festival takes place from 23 to 26 January. www.nwaf.org.uk
#3 Qingdao International Beer Festival – Qingdao, China
Qingdao, in China’s Shandong province, takes its beer seriously. Not only does it host this annual festival, but it actually has the Qingdao International Beer City in which it hosts it! The event, jointly sponsored by national and regional government, has been running for sixteen years and includes tastings, drinking contents and beer carnival games. The festival’s slogan, ‘Ganbei with the world!’ translates as something close to the understated ‘cheers!’
#4 Great British Beer Festival – London, UK
The bigger sister to the National Winter Ales Festival that takes place further north, this is another one organised by the Campaign for Real Ale. Taking place over five days in August, the festival plays host not only to great beers – the top three (rated by those at the festival) are Trawlerboys Best Bitter, Blackberry Stout and Oakwell Senior, but also a range of ciders and perries like Sweet Spot and Surrey Cider. In 2012 the event returned to its former home at Olympia, where it will remain in 2013. Pints average £3.50 a pint, while for the cheapskate inside you the 10 cheapest beers will set you back just £2.80. www.gbbf.org.uk
#5 Cape Town Festival of Beer – Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town’s beer festival is the largest in the southern hemisphere, so they boast, and takes place at Hamilton’s Rugby Club every November. The three-day festival attracts over 40 breweries with more than 150 local and international beers, and they really go all out to make it a family friendly affair – think children’s areas, child minders and even drivers to take you home in your own car! Beer prices float around the 15-20 rand mark (£1.10-£1.50) per glass just over half a pint. www.capetownfestivalofbeer.co.za
#6 Great Japan Beer Festival – across Japan
As if one beer festival was ever going to be enough – come on, this is Japan – no, in 2012 there were three and next year they are adding another! Taking place across different parts of the country over the course of the summer, this festival pulls in tens of thousands of Japanese and foreign beer lovers to try brews both local and global in origin. Tickets cost between 4,000 and 5,000 yen (£30-£38) depending on whether you buy in advance or on the door. Be warned, in an attempt to help the environment you will get only one glass on entry – save it and re-use it, you won’t be getting another! In 2013, the festivals take place in Tokyo on 01-02 June, Osaka on 13-15 July, Nagoya on 03-04 August and Yokohama on 14-16 September. www.beertaster.org
#7 Thai Beer Festival – Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok’s annual festival is worth a visit as much to see the whole pigs being barbecued as it is to taste the local beer. Thailand’s main breweries set up at the festival, held between November and January each year in front of the Central World shopping centre. If you’ve not been to Thailand before, make sure you try Chang beer (with its hilariously inexact alcoholic volume that the brewery estimates somewhere between 5% and 7%) and experience the following day’s ‘Chang-over’ that is notorious among backpackers.
#8 Czech Beer Festival – Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s seventeen-day long May festival is the biggest in the Czech republic, billed as the city’s answer to Oktoberfest. Up to 10,000 visitors can be accommodated, each using coins in the festival’s special currency, the tolar, to pay for the 120 beers on offer – around 70 Czech-brewed and the remainder foreign, largely from the UK and USA. Entry costs €2 (£1.60) along with the obligatory purchase of 12 tolars for €22 (£18). With all beers the same price, a pint will set you back 1 tolar (£1.50) or a litre 2 tolars (£3). The 2013 festival runs from 16 May to 01 June. www.ceskypivnifestival.cz
#9 Mondial de la Bière – Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The Montreal Beer Festival, better known by its French name as le Mondial de la Bière, has run annually at the start of June since 1994 and now bills itself as the biggest and best in north America. With around 80,000 visitors in 2009, it is certainly a big one! Ever French at heart, the emphasis at this festival is on tasting rather than drinking as much as you can stomach, and with this in mind only 3 to 4 ounces of each beer is served in a small glass. One dollar coupons are used rather than cash, and each beer will set you back between 2 and 6 coupons (£1.25-£3.75). Admission is free – the four-day festival runs from 29 May to 02 June 2013. www.festivalmondialbiere.qc.ca.
#10 The Belgian Beer Weekend – Brussels, Belgium
Besides mussels, chips and waffles, there are few things you would most associate with Brussels than beer. In fact, the tourism board’s slogan of ‘a food lover’s dream, a beer lover’s heaven’ pretty much sums it up. True to form, over 250 beers are showcased at the event, which is organised by the brewers’ association. Try some of the many citrusy white beers that Belgium is famous for. In 2013, the long weekend of beer loving takes place from 31 August to 02 September. www.visitbelgium.com