The leaves turn red, the chill sets in, the food and drink of choice changes; yes autumn is now upon us! And with it comes some of the biggest beer festivals in the world, kicking off with the almighty Oktoberfest;
179th Munich Oktoberfest, 22 September to 7 October
German Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival in the world with over five million participants. This 16-day event runs up to or includes the first Sunday of October. Held in Munich, Bavaria, Oktoberfest is an important celebration of Bavarian culture and has occurred annually since 1810. German Oktoberfest has become so popular that cities around the world also hold their own Oktoberfest. Munich Oktoberfest is a celebration of German beers and food. All the beer served in the event need to conform to the Reinheitsgebot, a German purity law and must be brewed within the city limits of Munich.
The event is held in a field called Theresienwiese and the participants wear traditional hats and listen to live bands while consuming copious litres of alcohol and snacking on delicious local fare such as potato pancakes, roast pork, sausages, grilled fish on a stick and sauerkraut. In 2007, visitors to Oktoberfest consumed approximately 7 million litres of alcohol throughout the 16 days!
London Bierfest, City of London, EC3R, 3-5 October
London Bierfest is a close cousin to the Munich Oktoberfest and is a three-day event held from October 3rd to the 5th in this English cosmopolitan city. For this year’s Bierfest, Old Billingsgate Market will be transformed into the traditional Oktoberfest. Tickets to London Bierfest are a very affordable £125 each based on a 10 person table. Though camping on the grounds are not permitted, the city has numerous hotels, hostels and other housing that fit every budget. Similar to the Munich Oktoberfest, London Bierfest participants will be entertained by live music and dancing, all the while drinking unlimited amounts of steins and delicious German food. All these fine fare served at your table by servers wearing traditional German garb.
Note; this is not to be confused with the London Oktoberfest 2012 which is held at Kennington Park, Lambeth, London over the two weekends of 20 – 23 September and 27 to 30 September..
How many beers of the world can you name? OK, so the big ones are easy – test yourself with our maps on Around The World In 80 Beers which details the beers consumed in The Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa… make for interesting viewing!
Great American Beer Festival, Denver, Colorado, 11 to 13 October
The Great American Beer Festival is an annual event that will be held at the Wells Fargo Theater in Denver, Colorado. This three-day event which will be held this year from October 11th to the 13th, has over 46,000 participants and is considered as the largest beer festival in North America. Hosted by the Brewers Association, visitors from around the globe are able to sample 2,000 American beer variants. The Great American Beer Festival also has competitions judging all the different beers in the festival. The festival organizers fly in 100 judges from around the world to evaluate beers from 500 domestic breweries and award medals to the best. The festival is incredibly popular and sells out way ahead of the festival.
Beer is loved across the world and the latest nation to catch on is China, who has seen their beer market grow by 30% in the last 5 years alone! China is now downing some 50 billion litres of beer – to put this figure into context the US (the second largest beer consumer in the world) consumes less than half this, at 24 billion litres.
Christmas Beer Festival Essen, Belgium, 15 – 16 December
The Christmas Beer Festival in Essen, Belgium is a two-day annual event that allows patrons to sample over 150 variants of Christmas and winter Belgiam beers. This festival’s beer list is so extensive that it is considered to have one of the best beer lists among the festivals worldwide. The Christmas Beer Festival is held from December 15th to the 16th.
Unlike most beer festivals where a ticket is required to participate, the Christmas Beer Festival is based on a pay as you taste basis. All visitors can taste the various beers from a 15 cl tasting glasses which is purchased for €3. For most visitors the beer glass also serves as a memento for the event.
Bierfest 2012 Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, September to November
Bierfest is held in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban on a three-leg stint that takes the spirit of Oktoberfest to the African continent. The five-day Cape Town Bierfest runs from September 13th to September 16, is held at the Newlands Brewery Village Green which is transformed to resemble a traditional Bavarian beer hall. Bierfest organizers have carefully selected three German beers; Munich Dunkel, Krystal Weiss and Royal Bavaria to be meticulously crafted by brew masters at The South African Breweries Limited.
The second leg of Bierfest South Africa is held at Johannesburg’s Montecasino from 11 to 14 October and the third leg is held at Durban’s Suncoast Casino from 15 to 18 November 2012. Similar to the original Munich Oktoberfest, patrons at Bierfest are served jugs of German beers and authentic German fare while being immersed in traditional Bavarian music and games. The most popular games at Bierfest involve testing one’s skills and strengths. ‘Hau den lukas’, the popular Oktoberfest ring the bell game is present as well as the best-dressed King Ludwig and Princess Therese competition.
Brewery tours are big business and one such brewery participating in Bierfest Africa is SAB World of Beer which was opened by the former President Nelson Mandela in 1995. More than 50,000 people visit annually for beer tasting opportunities and plans are afoot to build a new 60,000 square feet brewery at a cost of some 20m USD to rival the mega breweries of California, Oregon, Colorado and Wisconsin.
By Julie Bowman