Beer Festivals of the British Isles
Take a wide selection of top quality beers, plenty of happy punters, perhaps some food and some live entertainment, and you’ve got yourself a beer festival. Once the preserve of moustachioed middle aged men with pot bellies, these days beer festivals are as mainstream as a village fete or Christmas light switch-on. Varying in size from a marquee and barbecue in the local pub garden over a bank holiday weekend to huge events in the heart of London, beer festivals are great opportunities to introduce your taste buds to new sensations, socialise and have fun!
You can find the biggest festivals in the cities of course, and the biggest happens every August at London Olympia. The Great British Beer Festival has over 900 ales, ciders and beers to choose from, and is described as the biggest pub in the world. (The queue for the pool table is huge though). Also in the English capital is the London OktoberFest, an event in August, September and October that mimics the world famous Bavarian festival. Don’t attend if you’re allergic to lederhosen, beer served in litres or oompah-music.
For ten days every year, Norwich in Norfolk takes on an amber hue and becomes the ‘City of Ale’. Billed as a celebration of local pubs, breweries and real ale, there is also a huge array of events to go with the hundreds of beers you can try.
Further north, Manchester hosts two major events – the Beer and Cider Festival every January, and the Independent Manchester Beer Convention, catchily known as Indy Man Beer Con, in October. The former draws beers, ciders and perrys from across Europe, while the latter is a celebration of craft beer, and almost certainly the only beer festival in the country to be held in an old Victorian swimming bath. Across the Pennines the York Beer and Cider Festival is held every September and is the biggest beer festival in the north of England.
Away from the cities there are literally hundreds of smaller beer festivals happening every single year, such as the East Anglian Beer Festival, held in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk every April, or the Conwy Beer Festival in north Wales this June. The Hawkshead Brewery in Cumbria has two: one in March, the other in July, (though it’s actually in Stavely, about half an hour’s drive from Hawkshead) while Falmouth hosts one of the biggest beer festivals in Cornwall every October.
Wherever you choose to take your Cottage Holiday this year, it’s virtually guaranteed there will be a beer festival happening somewhere nearby. To find out exactly when and where, the CAMRA website is always a good place to start, as well as the area’s local tourism website. Cheers!