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10th Aug 2017 | Beer Hawk Uni

Week 14: Unit 2 Intro--Our Favourite Beer Festivals

Welcome to Unit 2 of Beer Hawk University. Let's move over to one of the best places to do some beery learning: the beer festival! This unit will focus on more beer-tasting terminology, more international beer styles and even the difference between keg and cask dispensing. But first, let's talk about our favourite beer festivals and how to make the best of it. Grab your festival glass, and let's go!

There's no better place to experience all that beer has to offer than the beer festival. It doesn't matter if it's your local CAMRA branch's annual fest or one worth getting on a plane for--like the Great American Beer Festival--the number of different beers just waiting to be poured into that glorious keepsake glass of yours is almost infinite. Well, at least it feels that way when you're a bit blurry at the end of the night.

While a beer fest may seem like a big, beery free-for-all here are our tips to make sure you make sure you do it right:

1/3s: For the love of all that is holy--grab a 1/3 pint glass (or at least 1/2 pint). There are plenty of nights for a full pint at the pub. A beer fest is where brewers bring some of their best and most interesting brews and it's the best opportunity to get a taste of as many different beers as possible. Try to do that with full pints and you'll probably find yourself on the front page of the Daily Mail.

Bring Coins: If you're at a fest where you have to pay cash, bring coins. You know why you're waiting in the queue for so long? Because the people in front of you have just bought a pint with a £20 and the bar staff is scrambling to make change. Don't be that person.

Plan Ahead: Go to the festival's website in advance and pick some of your must-trys. Nothing is worse than getting to a fest and something that sounds interesting is sold out by the time your meander your way over there. Besides, it keeps you focused on what you are trying and helps avoid that whole Daily Mail thing.

Talk to those pouring: Unless they're wearing a "volunteer" t-shirt, more than likely those behind the bar are either one of the brewers or part of the brewery staff (even the volunteers may have been given a briefing on what they're pouring so they could have some interesting insight). We like to get to know the story behind the beer and the brewery so here's your chance! Breweries are their representing their business and want to have a chance to talk about it. We think having an interesting conversation makes the beer taste better.

Try Something New: Finally, the most important: push that envelope. Ever had a beer that tasted like Tzatziki? Brewed with beef? From China? Do it here and the worst that could happen is you've got to dump a 1/3 pint because it wasn't to your taste.

Fab. Now let's go to what we think are some of the best beer festivals in the world. 

Great American Beer Festival

We think this one is probably the Grand-daddy of them all. Taking place in Denver, Colorado each October this festival has beer pouring from the best breweries in the US. In fact, the Guinness® Book of World Records says that this festival has the most beers on tap than any other place in the world at over 3500 beers. That's a pretty good reason to go.

Photo © Brewers Association

Great British Beer Festival

We've been fortunate to be a sponsor of this fantastic celebration of British beer (and other international delights as well) for several years. CAMRA puts on this massive Real Ale event each August (and, coincidentally, it's going on right now!) Since 1975, London's GBBF has been providing hundreds of thousands of beer fans from all corners of the globe all of the delicious cask ale, entertainment and fun they could want.

Oktoberfest

Dirndls, lederhosen and massive mugs of Oktoberfest bier. Can't leave this beer experience off the list! Expect dancing on tables, devouring roasted chickens with your hands and learning two words of German so you can sing along to Ein Prosit! If there's ever a celebration of beer to attend, it's this one. But all of our tips about how to enjoy a beer festival, truly don't apply here.

Belgian Beer Weekend

Taking place on Brussel's Grand Place, the Belgian Beer Weekend is one of the world's largest fêtes of the Belgian national drink. Not only is the most exciting of Belgian Trappist beers or artisanal saisons enjoyed here, but this weekend is also full of the pageantry that beer's importance on the history and culture of Belgium is worthy of.

Photo © Belgian Brewers – Lander Loeckx

Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival

Sure, Stockholm's festival in October doesn't exclusively focus on our favourite drink. Nevertheless, this exciting event features some of Sweden's most interesting and forward-thinking breweries to a thousands of curious drinkers over two weekends in late September and early October. Great food trucks and delicious spirits from around the world round out the experience at this fantastic festival.

We won't keep you here all day discussing all of the exciting beer festivals around the world. Indeed, there are much too many to talk about! Join us next week at Beer Hawk University as we get stuck in to beer and more beer!

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