Beer is one of our world’s oldest crafted beverages, dating back to nearly 9500 BC, and is widely consumed by both men and women alike. The words of Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and columnist, Dave Barry, sums it up best: “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.” Beer is often the main ingredient in the celebratory process, and has understandably become a reason for celebration all its own, as beer festivals all over the world have become a part of our culture. Without further ado, we present you with this list of what we feel are the world’s ten best festivals for celebrating man’s favorite pastime, handcrafted beer.
Undoubtedly the biggest and most famous of all beer festivals as well as the world’s largest fair, Oktoberfest, held annually in Munich, Germany, brings in a crowd of over six million people from all corners of the world looking to enjoy cold brew and endless celebratory festivities. The only beer available at Oktoberfest comes directly from the breweries within the city limits of Munich. The festival lasts from late September to the first weekend in October.
Great American Beer Festival
Hands down the biggest beer festival in the United States, the Great American Beer Festival is a three day beer-lover’s paradise held every year at the Colorado National Convention Center in Denver and sees an average of over 50,000 beer-goers in attendance. Visitors from all parts of the world are able to taste over 2,000 different American craft beers and 1300 foreign beers from over 500 different breweries that are showcased at this event. A competition is also held at the festival, with over 100 beer judges awarding a gold, silver, and bronze medal to 83 different beer categories.
Great British Beer Festival
Established in 1977, the Great British Beer Festival is organized by the Campaign for real ale (CAMRA) and offers up a wide selection of over 650 cask ales and other beers from not only the UK, but from breweries located in the United States, Belgium, and Germany. The 2013 festival takes place August 13-17, with tickets going on sale this april.
Oktoberfest Zincinnati USA began as a block party in 1976 to attract visitors to the downtown Cincinnati area, and has quickly become the second largest Oktoberfest in the world after the original festival in Munich. Oktoberfest Zinzinnati honors the rich German Heritage found in Southwestern Ohio and takes place in downtown Cincinnati on Fifth Street, offering up a broad display of not only German beer, but German food, music, and culture.
Montreal Beer Festival
Known as the Mondial de la bière to the locals, the Montreal Beer Festival is held annually at Place Bonaventure and will feature 637 beers from around 200 different breweries at its upcoming 20th go-around May 29th-June 2nd of this year. American Craft beer is scarce at the Montreal Beer Fest, but the emphasis on South American brewed beer at this event guarantees that you’ll find some pretty unique beers you’ve probably never heard of.
If you feel like taking a break after your sixth or seventh pint, instructors from the Montreal Beer School are on hand at the festival that offer workshops on how to smell and taste beer, as well as beefing up your general knowledge of every man’s favorite beverage.
Oregon Brewer’s Festival
One of the longest running beer festivals in the United States, the Oregon Brewer’s Festival finds itself in Portland on the west bank of the Willamette River, and draws a crowd of 80,000 craft beer connoisseurs to sample more than 20 different types of beer crafted from eighty breweries over the course of five days. Along with manly helpings of craft beer, there is live music, home-brewing demonstrations, and a wide variety of foods to indulge in.
National Winter Ales Festival
The National Winter Ales Festival is the winter counterpart to summer’s Great British Beer Festival mentioned above and serves to promote the stouts and porter beers that are normally only available during the winter months. Held in January every year, the National Winter Ales Festival is arguably the second largest beer festival in Britain, and will take place at the Sheridan Suite on Wednesday the 23rd through Saturday the 26th. Over 300 beers, bottled ales, and ciders will be on hand as you witness the notorious Champion Winter Beer of Britain Awards.
Easily the second largest beer festival in the world next to the almighty Oktoberfest, the Cannstatter Volksfest is a three-week long fair held at the Cannstatter Wasen in Stuttgart, Germany that brings roughly 4.2 million thirsty visitors each year to partake in the celebration. It features 7 large beer tents capable of holding nearly 5,000 people each, as well as a fairgrounds, rides, and plenty of fair-worthy food. Although not strictly a beer festival, the Connstatter Volksfest begins exactly a week after the start of Oktoberfest, allowing many beer enthusiasts to attend both in succession.
Portland International BeerFest
Its common knowledge that Portland, Oregon has been nicknamed the “Craft Beer Capital” of the United States, which is why we felt obliged to include a second and equally awesome beer festival from Portland on this list. The Portland International BeerFest is one you won’t want to miss if you’re looking for those unique and exotic craft beers that are nearly impossible to find anywhere except locally. At the PIB you will find over 150 Double IPA’s, stouts, barrel-aged ales, and sour ales crafted from over 16 different countries. If you’ve never heard of it, then its probably there, which is why the festival’s motto is “Taste the Greatest Beers you’ve never heard of.” The Portland International Beer Fest will be held July 19-21 this year at the North Park Blocks of the MAP Pearl District.
Belgian Beer Weekend
Anyone who has imbibed a pint of Stella Artois knows that Belgium waffles aren’t half as delicious as Belgium beer. That single misconception is probably why Belgium hosts one of the most stellar beer festivals in Europe, the Belgium Beer Weekend. Organized by the Belgium Brewer’s Guild, the Beer Weekend features over 350 premiere Belgium beers from 51 local breweries large and small and is held on the first weekend every September at the Grand Place in Brussels.