There's nothing the British beer lover looks forward to more than festival season: that time of the year when you can get hold of some of the world's best breweries under a single roof (or in one large field), sampling pales, porters and pecan-fudge-pie-coldbrew-soft-serve stouts to your heart's content.
For that reason, we've scoured the UK's shores for a few of the finest beer festivals for lovers of craft brews, real ale and everything in between, with no part of the UK left unturned. Whether you're after a ton of tasters, a pint or four in the sun or an afternoon out with family and friends, read on.
Beer festivals in February
Friends & Family & Beer
21-22 February 2020; Manchester Central, Windmill Street, Manchester, M2 3GX
For the beer geek, a session at a festival is the perfect way to tick off a few beers you won’t find anywhere else, and this Manchester event from Cloudwater is the perfect place to do just that. There’ll be a roster of European and US breweries rarely seen on these shores, including Trillium, American Solera, The Bruery, Finback, Jester King, TRVE, Kees, Tilquin, Modern Times, Other Half and New Belgium. You’ll be giving something back by going, too – the event donates all of its profits to local charities.
21-23 February 2020; Copeland Park, SE15 3SN
If cask beer’s your jam (and come the cold depths of wintertime, we reckon it 100% should be), then you’re going to want to head down to Copeland Park in Peckham for one of the most diverse line-ups of cask beer showcased in the British craft beer world. Put together by Bermondsey’s Affinity Brew Co, this weekender will see classic breweries like Timothy Taylor and Harvey’s on the taps, plus a jam-packed list of craft brewers, too: we’re talking Fyne, Moor, Vibrant Forest, Boxcar and Deya.
27-29 February 2020, The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, E1 6QR
For the last seven years, Craft Beer Rising has helped introduce people to some of the best new producers in the UK and beyond, but with the craft sector morphing by the minute it’s time for a bit of a refresh: introducing BrewLDN, a new festival from the team behind CBR that’ll host more than 200 stands showcasing beer, cider, spirits, snacks and street food. It’s set to be this winter’s biggest UK beer festival, so get your glass ready.
From £10; brewldn.com
Beer festivals in April
We Are Lager
April 2020, Upper Campfield Market, Manchester, M3 4NN
Despite the vast majority of beer sold in British pubs and supermarkets being lager, the craft beer world has (until relatively recently) eschewed the humble crispy boi for bigger, punchier beer styles like the IPA and stout. That's all changing, and Manchester-based beer festival We Are Lager is out to prove it, showcasing some of the world's finest lager producers under one roof for a weekend in April. This year saw heavy hitters like Donzoko, Lost & Grounded and Braybrooke grace a UK-heavy line-up next to European brewers like Mahrs Brau, Budweiser Budvar and more. Next year's line-up and dates coming soon.
April 2020, Northern Monk Refectory, Leeds, LS11 9YJ
Each year, legendary Leeds brewery Northern Monk holds two beer festivals: one in spring, celebrating the start of sunshine season and showcasing the biggest, freshest and hoppiest beers the world has to offer. The other (mentioned a little later in this guide) is Dark & Wild City, which focuses on stouts, porters, sours and barley wines right when you need them in the depths of winter. Depending on your palate, either or both are an absolute must. Last year's Hop City saw some of the world's finest brewers of IPAs and pales descend on the Old Flax Store in Leeds to pour everything from big New England IPAs to session-strength West Coast numbers, and the odd English-style IPA on cask, too. Last year saw Bissell Brothers, Equilibrium, Other Half and Finback jet across with US kegs, too, so it's great for a little bit of beer tourism without the flight.
Beer festivals in June
5-8 June 2020, Cairndow, Argyll, Scotland, PA26 8BJ
Each year, esteemed Scottish brewery Fyne Ales invites some of the, er, finest breweries in all the land up to its estate at the tip of Loch Fyne to pour brews for a gaggle of excited beer geeks – all while camped out by the water in a scenic glen. The 2020 line-up includes UK legends Cloudwater, Burning Sky, North, Mills and Fierce, plus esteemed US producers Hill Farmstead and Jester King. Be there.
From £49.50. fynefest.com
Brighton Craft Beer Festival
June 2020, Clarendon Centre, New England Street, BN1 4GQ
New for 2019, Brighton Craft Beer Festival brings a serious line-up of UK and European breweries to the shores of (hopefully) sunny Brighton: next year's line-up is still to be announced, but this year saw Sussex smashers like UnBarred and Burning Sky, plus the likes of Wylam, Cloudwater, North Brewing Co, To Øl and Beavertown Tempus Project. And the tickets are all-beers-included. Oh, we do like a beer beside the seaside...
From £49.50; brightoncraftbeerfestival.co.uk
Beer festivals in August
London Craft Beer Festival
August 2020; Tobacco Dock, Wapping Lane, E1W 2SF
Simply put, London Craft Beer Festival is the king of all-inclusive beer festivals in London. Your ticket price includes unlimited taster pours of every beer in the venue, plus access to live music, DJs and pop-up kitchens from some of London's finest restaurants. Beer-wise, this year's line-up included the likes of Verdant, Wild Beer Co, Left Handed Giant and The Kernel from the UK, plus legends like Mikkeller, Dugges, Stillwater Artisanal, Finback and Evil Twin from Europe and the US. Expect more of the same in 2020.
From £49.95; londoncraftbeerfestival.co.uk
The Great British Beer Festival
August 2020; Olympia London, Hammersmith Road, W14 8UX
Set under the iconic roof of Olympia, GBBF is a must-visit for anyone who even remotely likes sampling the delights of British cask ale. Organised by CAMRA, the event sees hundreds of taps from breweries all over the UK, plus a stellar selection of international beers separated by country. It also sees the crowning of the Champion Beers of Britain, which you can try in tutored tastings on the Tuesday and Wednesday.
From £7; gbbf.org.uk
21-23 August 2020; Bakewell Showground, Bakewell, DE45 1AW
In our eyes, great beer and tasty food are as important to a festival as the music: and that's why we love Peakender, a weekend camping festival in the Peak District which gives centre stage to Thornbridge's esteemed range of beers, as well as showcasing some of the brewery's friends from around the UK. This year's line-up included Magic Rock, Northern Monk, Siren and Lost and Grounded. Keep an eye out for festival-only collabs, meet the brewer events and more ahead of 2020.
From £79.50; peakender.co.uk
Beer festivals in October
Indy Man Beer Con
1-4 October 2020; Victoria Baths, Manchester, M13 0FE
If you fancy exploring the crumbling network of Grade II-listed Turkish Baths in Manchester, and want to drink some of the world's best beer while you're at it, you'll probably quite fancy a trip to October's Indy Man Beer Con. A celebration of the finest independently brewed beer in the UK and beyond, it sees a rolling roster of more than 50 breweries pouring each session, with tap lists updated live on the festival app so you only end up queuing for the beers you want the most.
Tickets on sale in 2020; indymanbeercon.co.uk
London Craft Oktoberfest
4-6 October 2019; Mercato Metropolitano, Newington Causeway, SE1 6DR
Set in German Kraft’s sprawling Elephant & Castle beer garden, this weekend-long festival sees some of the best breweries in London and the south of England get together to celebrate German culture, Bavarian-style grub and great lager. With crispy brews from Gipsy Hill, Bohem, Lost & Grounded and more available by the half-pint or one-litre maß, it’s set to be a smasher – and that’s before we start on the bratwurst.
Beer festivals in November
Dark & Wild City
22-23 November 2019; Northern Monk Refectory, Leeds, LS11 9YJ
Newsflash: Leeds might seem a long way north, but it’s actually only about two hours on the train from London. For that reason alone, we implore you to head up this November for Dark & Wild City – an annual invitational beer festival that showcases some of the world’s best stouts and (as of this year) sour and wild ales under the roof of Northern Monk’s brewery taproom the Old Flax Store. On the line-up this year are Somerset-based wild brewers Yonder, Pittsburgh’s Dancing Gnome and legendary Belgian breweries Fantôme and Gueuzerie Tilquin.
Celtic Beer Festival
30 November 2019; St Austell Brewery, St Austell, Cornwall, PL25 4BY
We don't usually need an excuse to head down to Cornwall, but if you do, here it is: every November, the Celtic Beer Festival takes over the picturesque vaults at St Austell Brewery in – er – St Austell, showcasing some of the finest beer from the south west of England. You'll find St Austell Brewery classics like Tribute, Proper Job, Korev and tasty double IPA Big Job, as well as seasonal rarities and brews from Bath Ales, Harbour Brewing, Woodman's Wild Ale and other British brewing talent. There's also great live music and a range of mean pasties to counteract the beer in your belly, too.