Europe’s Coolest Beer Festivals
The expansive room of the conference center had that energetic din of several hundred buzzed people waiting in line for beer. It was bright, loud and confusing. I didn’t know “how” to do a beer festival. So, I just took my little cup and got in a line for my first beer at my first beer fest: Murphy’s Stout. A real stretch from my usual Guinness. I remember sipping on my beer not knowing where to go next. Self-consciously wandering, I found myself hovering near the names that I recognized: The aforementioned Murphy’s Stout; Sierra Nevada; I think I remember Founders. But there was a crowd forming around one particular booth–men and women alike. I hung back trying to read the tap list. I had no idea what any of it meant. I didn’t want to look stupid when it was my turn to order.
“Hmm. Pale ale. That sounds good,” I thought to myself. Stone.
And indeed it was. Easy to drink, it had a lively mouthfeel that I still remember. It was light, fresh. Hoppy, citrusy and beautiful.
My first craft beer at my first beer festival. And that was that: I was hooked.
While I’ll always remember my first, beer festivals have transformed a lot over the years. Many focus on getting a bunch of great breweries together. Others focus on diving deep into a particular style. Then there are those that have become week-long festivals in a city. As festival season is starting to ramp up, here’s my list of European beer events that you need to have on your list for the rest of 2019 (and hey, pencil ’em in for next year too.)
And whether it’s your first or your 40th festival, hopefully you’ll get hooked on something new. And don’t forget, I can help you get there super easy.
The Best European Beer Events
Toer de Geuze
May 4-5, 2019
This biennial event is a must for lambic lovers and fans of traditional Belgian brewing. This tour–organized by the HORAL society–makes stops at HORAL member breweries, which open their doors to the public for tours and tastings. The tour can be done by reserving spaces on charter buses or by doing the trip independently on the Toer de Geuze weekend. The next event will be in May 2021.
Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen
May 10-11, 2019
Previously known as the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, this two-day festival is now the culminating event for Copenhagen’s “infamous” Mikkeller Beer Week. It features some of the best-of-the-best breweries from around the world. Expect some of the rarest and wackiest beers alongside food trucks and the new beer-festival staple: a tattoo artist.
I wouldn’t bring the kids to this one.
Budapest Beer Week
May 20-26, 2019
With aims to put Budapest on the map as one of the best beer cities in Europe, Budapest Beer Week is wholly succeeding. An entire week’s worth of events, tasting sessions and after parties are what’s needed to show this stunning European city AND 50 of the world’s coolest breweries.
May 31-June 3, 2019
The Fyne Fest is three days of beer, food, music and camping. Oh, and it’s in one of the most beautiful brewery locations in the world: the Fyne Ales brewery estate in Argyll, Scotland. Family and dog-friendly, this is one of the great outdoor festivals.
June 1, 2019
A celebration of the city’s namesake beer, the Berliner Weisse, this day-long festival includes a number of breweries pouring their versions of the style as well as seminars, tastings and workshops. This is a great way to get an in-depth knowledge about one of craft beer’s most versatile styles.
June 20-23, 2019
Four days of the funk in Amsterdam, that’s Carnivale Brettanomyces. With events, talks, beer pairing dinners and tap takeovers at various venues across the city this fest is the place to be if you’re a lover of funky, sour or generally awesome beers from a number of international breweries.
Berlin Beer Week
July 19-28, 2019
This celebration of beer in Berlin kicks off with an evening Craft Beer Cruise on the Spree River through Berlin. More than a week’s worth of events, tap takeovers and the like all over the city. This year, the “week” culminates with the Festival2 –a unique concept where this beer festival is partnering with other beer festivals (several of which are named here!) to have one epic party filled with music, art, dancing, food and a pool. Holla!
Great British Beer Festival
August 6-10, 2019
This is The Big One for British cask ales. Organized by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) at the London Olympia expo hall, it features hundreds of cask ales, ciders and perries representing all of the UK’s regions and visiting bars from the US and Europe. Food, entertainment, games and talks round off this massive campaign to protect British pubs and cask ales.
There’s a family room available for the kids to go in but a responsible adult has to stay with them. Whomp whomp.
London Craft Beer Festival
August 9-11, 2019
Running concurrently with GBBF’s weekend days, the London Craft Beer Festival couldn’t be more different. Bringing together an impressive list of local and international craft breweries, this 3-day festival includes live music, great food and awesome people–proving why London is a great beer city.
BXL Beer Fest
August 24-25, 2019
Boom. Putting Brussels on the craft beer map, the BXLBeerFest pours only good, honest craft beers from 60 independent breweries coming from 10 different countries. While not the biggest beer festival on the continent, it presents beer as a worthy culinary partner in a relaxed atmosphere perfect for chatting to friends and brewers.
Kiddos are welcome but, as usual, get them out of there early.
September 21-October 6, 2019
This one doesn’t need much explanation: it’s Oktoberfest. THE largest, most exciting, most fun, most culturally significant beer festival in Germany (and, indeed, Europe.) You’re only drinking the official Oktoberfest beer here so lift a Maß, get on a table and dance the day/night away in one of Munich’s famous beer tents.
Children under 6 have to be out of the tents by 8pm but with tons of carnival rides and games, you’ll probably give in to the whining and take them out anyway. Or check out the Familienplatz!
Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival
September 26-28, 2019
If you’re more of an equal-opportunity drinker, then the Stockholm Beer & Whisky Fest is the place for you. Spanning over two separate weekends, this huge festival has a hall dedicated to Swedish beers as well as whisky, calvados, ciders and a wide range of other spirits and cocktails that take up pretty much the whole NackaStrandsMässan convention center.
This fest gets packed and there’s little seating area to speak of. Don’t bring children.
September 27-28, 2019
With a windmill dating to the late 17th century just up the street at the associated De Molen brewery café, this is a pretty cool location for a beer festival. It makes it even better that this beer festival is the famed Borefts fest. Its line-up includes some of the coolest breweries in the world–from superstars to relative unknowns. Great beer, great friends and a windmill. See you there!
October 3-6, 2019
In its 8th year, Indyman (Independent Manchester Beer Convention) is now one of the UK’s leading beer festivals. Taking place in the stunning historically registered Victoria Baths building–literally the bars are set up in the bottom of the former swimming pools–this fest features great independent breweries from the UK and beyond as well as talks, dinners and other side events.
Bring the kids but get out of there early as it gets crowded. Strollers are difficult to maneuver unless you’re “that guy.”
October 5, 2019
If there ever was a beer style to celebrate, it would be the Pilsner in its hometown: Pilsen, Czech Republic. Festivities take place throughout the city and on the grounds of the Pilsner Urquell brewery itself. It’s celebrated on or around the “birthday” of the the first Pilsner brew day and consists of live bands, beer tents, Czech food, brewery tours and a city-wide toast. Make sure to book your Pilsner Urquell brewery tour early!
October 11-12, 2019
With Norwegian farmhouse ales experiencing its (well-deserved) moment in the spotlight, this is the festival to learn all about it and experience it in Hornindal, Norway. This two-day festival presents opportunities to taste this interesting style from the farmhouse brewers themselves, see family kveik yeast strains and observe brewing demonstrations (complete with yeast screaming…) Sister styles from the likes of Finland and Lithuania will also be available to try. Pretty cool, eh?
Billie’s Craft Beer Fest
November 29-30, 2019
Billie’s Craft Beer Fest has one of the most killer line-ups of breweries in Europe. Taking place along the riverside in Antwerp, Belgium it allows the biggest beer geeks (in all of us) to try about 50 of the world’s most interesting breweries. With food, tattoos and a DJ playing a good mix of rock and metal this is an adults-only playground.