The 185th Munich Oktoberfest kicks off on Saturday but if you won't be filling your stein in Munich this year, there are still many chances for beer drinking around the world, writes Eli Orzessek.
Munich's Oktoberfest is the granddaddy (or Opa, we should say) of all the beer festivals in the world, held across 16 to 18 days. It's an important part of Bavarian culture and has been held since the year 1810. Six million punters attend the festivities every year and consume a staggering seven million litres of beer between them, while also chowing down on thousands of grilled sausages, chicken, pretzels and even wild oxen. As well as drinking, it's also a celebration of folk culture, with parades, fairground rides and traditional costumes.
However, you don't need to be in a meadow in Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest — the concept has spread around the world. It's celebrated as far abroad as Argentina, which hosts an 11-day festival in the mountain range district of Villa General Belgrano. In Australia, Brisbane hosts the country's largest Oktoberfest, with German-style beer brewed specially for the festival — and it's served in special steins designed to withstand the Queensland heat. The German settlement of Fredricksburg in Texas holds the best US Oktoberfest, featuring a mix of domestic and international beers, as well as an interesting fusion of southern and German cuisine. September 22-October 7.
While Wellington's Beervana festival earns the title of the best beer fest in New Zealand, you've just missed out — it took place in August, so it's time to look for the future. In November, the Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival, has an awesome selection of craft beers, great kai and southern hospitality, and you can sample all it has to offer while enjoying the musical stylings of Bic Runga and Elemeno P. While tickets have sold out already, you can sign up for the waiting list in case any free up. November 10.
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Sunshine capital Nelson is home to more craft breweries per head than anywhere in the country and hosts an appropriately unique beer festival every March. The beers served at Marchfest are specially brewed for the event and have never been tasted by the public before — so you're guaranteed to try something new. Breweries involved in this year's festival included Sawmill, Deep Creek, The Mussel Inn and 8 Wired. And it's not just about beer — you can also sample wine and cider, regional cuisine (including a beer-and-food-matching lunch), enjoy local music and even learn more about brewing at an educational forum. March 9.
Montreal Beer Festival
To French-Canadian locals, it's known as the Mondial de la biere. Held annually at Place Bonaventure, the Montreal Beer Festival was founded in 1994 by a trio of beer lovers. This four-day festival features a lot of beer — with 570 brews from around the world on offer at the 2018 festival in June, you'd have to sample 142.5 beers every day if you wanted to try them all. As well as beers from all over Canada, the US and further afar, it's a great opportunity to try the offerings of a number of Quebec microbreweries, with more additions every year. The festival also offers workshops, beer tours, live entertainment and restaurant tastings — with some of Montreal's best chefs creating special dishes cooked with beer. June.
Oregon Brewers Festival
Portland has the reputation as the craft beer capital of the US — and its nickname is "Beervana" so it's fitting that it would boast two great tasting festivals. In June, beer-lovers get to try a huge variety of hard-to-find beers and ciders from all over the world at the Portland International Beerfest. It's held over three days and more than 160 beers from more than 15 countries are showcased — some near-impossible to find unless you're local. The festival's slogan is "taste the beers you've never heard of" — so you know you're bound to find something interesting. June.
Following the Portland International Beerfest, July brings the start of Oregon Craft Beer Month. Its crown jewel is the Oregon Brewers Festival — one of the longest-running and most prestigious beer fests in the US, drawing crowds of 80,000. Craft beer connoisseurs can sample scores of beers from 80 different brewers over an epic five days, with plenty of great food on offer to soak it all up.
Great British Beer Festival
Held in Olympia in London every August, this is the largest beer festival in the UK — and it's just marked its 41st year. Organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), there's a strong focus on ale served straight from the cask — but bottled beers and cider are also available. It's best to arrive thirsty — with more than 900 drinks to try, there's bound to be something to suit every taste. The festival also offers the chance to sample some fantastic London street food and pub snacks, play some traditional games and listen to live music. The festival is known as "the biggest pub in the world", so you'll want to pace yourself and sample beer in thirds in order to make the most of the experience. And as airlines and travel operators are in full swing with early-bird season, now's the time to grab a great deal on flights for next year's festival.
Belgian Beer Weekend
This is another one to mark on your 2019 travel calendar and you can sample some of the country's best at the Belgian Beer Weekend, featuring more than 350 beers from 51 local breweries. Held in the first weekend of September at the Grand Place in Brussels, it's staged by the National Federation of Belgian Brewers, which counts more than 70 members — including most of Belgium's medium and large brewers. While beer is obviously the centerpiece of the festival, there are also a number of award ceremonies where notable Belgian beer ambassadors are "knighted" for their dedication to the brew. With traditional costumes and a parade of historical beer carts, this lively weekend is not to be forgotten. And once the ceremony is over, guests get the chance to try all of the beers on offer and meet the brewers behind them. September 6-8.
Women who brew
We all know beer is not just for boys, and there are a handful of festivals celebrating female brewers. Women on Tap has been held in Yorkshire for two years as part of Leeds Beer Week and Fem. Ale takes place in three cities throughout the English summer — Norwich, Brighton and Nottingham. There's also a FemAle Brew Fest in Fort Lauderdale, South Florida which this year took place in March, while New York's Beers With(out) Beards was held in August, a week's celebration of the accomplishments of women in craft beer. Dates for 2019 are yet to be announced, but keep an eye on their websites so you can include these festivals in your travel plans.