When it comes to beer, it’s fair to say that the breweries of Europe hold a distinguished reputation amongst the world’s leading brands of ‘amber nectar’. And if your love of lager is of a level that it factors into your holiday itinerary, be it a refreshment pit stop on the cobbles of the Grand Place in Brussels, donning your finest lederhosen and attending Munich’s Oktoberfest or paying homage to the home of “probably the best lager in the world” in Copenhagen, here’s a rundown of where you can quench your thirst throughout Europe.
If you happen to be in Budapest this weekend, make your way to Buda Castle as running until Sunday, 15th June is the Buda Castle Beer Festival, playing host to nearly 200 domestic and international (particularly German, Czech and Belgian) beer varieties including Borsodi, Dreher and Heineken. As well as sampling the beers, there’s food aplenty on offer as well as live entertainment. The event is open until 3am tomorrow morning, from 10am to 3am on Saturday and from 10am to midnight on Sunday. A day pass costs HUF 1999 and includes a pint of beer.
Next month meanwhile, Hamburg’s Hamburger Dom gets underway from July 25th and runs for a month on Heiligengeistfeld. One of three held each year (there’s also a spring and winter version in March-April and November-December respectively), this event has grown from its humble origins of merchants and craftsmen coming together to trade, to a full-on festival complete with beer tents, fairground rides and food stalls. This event has more of a family fun day feel to it as opposed to a traditional beer festival (Wednesday is a dedicated ‘family day’, but it’s worth a visit nonetheless, particularly if you have children in tow. It’s open from 3pm until midnight Monday to Saturday and from 2pm until 11pm on Sundays. Visit on a Friday and you’ll get to experience the firework displays, too.
Now in its 18th year, the International Berlin Beerfestival hits the streets of the German capital (Karl-Marx-Allee to be precise) from the 1st to the 3rd of August and is renowned for holding the world record for the longest beer garden (2.2km). Over this weekend, some 320 breweries from 86 countries present around 2,000 different beer specialities and each year, there’s a different focus (previous years have seen the beers of the Czech Republic, Poland, the Baltic nations and even Vietnam take centre stage). With live music to add to the atmosphere, the event takes place from midday to midnight on Friday, 10am to midnight on Saturday and 10am to 10pm on the Sunday and best of all, it’s free to enter.
Two more festivals to mention are the Brussels Beer Festival taking place over the weekend of 5th, 6th and 7th September, and of course the legendary Oktoberfest in Munich running from 20th September through until the 5th of October. I’ve previously blogged about these beer festivals separately so click here for Brussels or click here for Munich if you’d like to read more about these atmospheric events. One other festival to mention is the Czech Beer Festival in Prague with over 100 different varieties of Czech beer on offer alongside live music and traditional Czech cuisine. Sadly you’ve just missed the boat for the 2014 event (it takes place over the second half of May) but we’ll keep you posted for the 2015 event once the dates are confirmed.
And if your city break doesn’t coincide with a beer festival, fear not for there are plenty of destinations where your sightseeing can include a brewery tour and tasting. In Copenhagen, you’ve got the Carlsberg Brewery and Visitors Centre, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Situated next to the brewery, the Visitor Centre takes you on a journey through the history of and processes involved in the art of beer brewing with, of course, a chance to sample arguably Denmark’s most famous export at the end of the visit in the centre’s in-house bar (two beers or soft drinks included). There’s also the opportunity to explore the sculpture garden and the award-winning stables.
In Amsterdam meanwhile, there’s the Heineken Experience, set on the site of the company’s old brewery and recently renovated to provide a fascinating self-guided, interactive experience “tantamount to brew worship” according to Lonely Planet! As well as the more traditional brewery exhibits such as the historic brew room and a stable walk, you’ll also get to watch old Heineken commercials, make a music video and even subject yourself to the processes of beer brewing, including being shaken, sprayed with water and heated up! Admission costs €18 and is open daily.