You might think that you’re never more than a few days from a beer festival, but of course some are undoubtedly better than others. Europeans are justifiably proud of their beer festivals with some being the most important highlight of a fun-loving traveller’s year. Ranging from the thigh-slappingly lively to craft beer tasting events for serious connoisseurs here is our pick for 10 of the best Beer Festivals in Europe 2014…
1. Oktoberfest Beer, Munich, Germany
Don your Lederhosen for the largest and easily the most famous beer festival in Europe. The much-loved Munich festival (17th September – 3rd October) was originally a one-off celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and his bride but it was so popular it has remained a permanent annual fixture 170 years on. Feast on pork knuckles, bratwurst and potato pancakes while surrounded by high-spirited Bavarians and visitors from all corners of the globe.
2. Altausseer Bierzelt, Austria
For a smaller, more intimate (and much less commercial) version of Oktoberfest try the usually sleepy hamlet of Altaussee. Once a year, visitors cram into the tiny Alpine village for a much less famous, but equally as fun three-day beer fest. Expect plenty of Dirndl clad locals and OOM-pah-pah bands waiting to get the party started. Dressing in traditional garb is a must.
- Dates from: Early September
3. Czech Beer Festival, Prague
People in the Czech capital drink more beer per capita than anywhere else, so you’ll know their beer festival is going to be a pretty special affair. Lasting a hazy 17 days the festival promises 70 brands of Czech beer as well as a plentiful supply of chefs, bakers and costumed staff thrown into the mix. Each of the gigantic beer tents (pitched in the in the grounds of the Prague Exhibition Grounds) features its own entertainment stage and expect the merriment to continue well into the early hours.
- Dates from: Late May to early June
4. PINT Bokbier Festival, Amsterdam
Whilst Amsterdam is probably best known for it’s open-minded coffee shops, it also reserves some special love for it’s home grown ‘bokbier.’ Easily the largest Dutch beer festival is the PINT Bokbier usually held in the city’s former stock exchange. It hosts more than 50 varieties of bokbier although be warned – the beer in this part of Europe is sweet, rich and very strong (sometimes up to 9%).
- Dates from: Late October
5. Great British Beer Festival, Olympia London
The Brits love a beer and the yearly beer festival organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) always attracts a lot of visitors. Perhaps not the most atmospheric event, the festival caters for serious beers lovers. It is styled as the “biggest pub in the world” and is home to over 800 different real ales, ciders and over 200 foreign beers on offer and reviews of craft beer cases are also common here. The 50,000 strong crowd is served by a huge team of dedicated volunteers – all huge real ale and craft beer lovers of course!
- Dates from: Early August
6. Scottish Real Ale Festival, Edinburgh
The Scottish version of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) festival is also held during the summer. Although it restricts itself to only Scottish beer there’s an emphasis on fine quality – there are nearly 150 of the finest cask-conditioned ales from breweries large and small. Also expect bands, friendly locals and a beautiful city backdrop.
- Dates from: Late June
7. Belgian Beer Weekend, Brussels
This is the weekend where Belgians forget about their chocolates and concentrate on their second biggest love. The Belgian Beer festival is an event organised by the Belgian Brewers’ association and the “Mashstaff of the Knights.” Head down to the Market Place in Brussels and you’ll find at least 50 breweries participating to show off their best selections of hops-based tipple. The beer tasting festivities start on Friday and runs right through until Sunday evening.
- Dates from: Late August
8. Mondial de la Biere, Strasbourg, France
A French town with a German flavour makes an ideal backdrop to a lively beer festival. The picturesque city is home to a three day long beer fiesta (located in at the Parc des Expositions). You’ll find a huge variety of beer on offer as well as beer making workshops and a good selection of the city’s finest cheese. Also specialises in artisan producers and independent micro-breweries.
- Dates from: Late October
9. Cannstatter Volksfest, Germany
The Stuttgart Autumn Festival is second largest beer festival in Germany (after Oktoberfest) and it’s an event that continues to grow every year. The event’s fairground location – complete with rides, brass bands and traditional parades – makes it an excellent choice for a family festival. It takes place over a three week period and sometimes the festival attracts over 4 million people.
- Dates from: Late September to Mid August
10. Karlovac Beer Festival, Croatia
This central Croatian city is home to the biggest beer event in the country. Visited by over 150,000 beer fans it’s a traditional beer fest which was first started by a Karlovac Brewery in 1984. Offering a great selection of beer related events, people flock here for the city’s long tradition of beer making, the local food (including Karlovac pretzels) and of course the usually hot and sunny weather.
- Dates from: Late August to Early September