Some of the best beery fun I had last year was at beer festivals. They’re a great way to catch up with friends and enjoy all sorts of rare and crazy beers you wouldn’t otherwise see.
One problem is of course that writing about these events too far in advance can be tricky at best. Details are often undecided, unavailable, or under wraps. That’s why I’ve decided to split this year’s selection across two posts. One now, one later in the summer.
What I’m aiming for with this list is a selection of mainly craft-beer-focused festivals in or near the UK. I’ve excluded CAMRA festivals, mainly because there are too many of them and I couldn’t really justify putting some in but not others. If you want a more comprehensive overview of beer festivals coming up, check out the UK Beer Festival Calendar.
It’s really unfortunate for posts like this one that the year starts on such a downer. It’s cold, wet, and dark and yet somehow people are all boozed out. It’s almost as if we all overdid it not too long ago…
As ever, Tryanuary exists to liven things up a bit. There are plenty of interesting events planned across the country. Your best bet is to follow the campaign on Twitter to keep up with what’s going down.
This year the campaign is set to be bigger than ever. There’s a huge team in place behind the scenes and they’ve been working since August to set things up. In keeping with the theme of helping out the beer industry during hard times, the campaign has chosen The Benevolent as this year’s charity partner.
In London, the campaign will partner with the London Brewers Alliance, and there will be a special London Brewers Market as well as lots of other events. Look out for north and south London pub crawls and Tryanuary themed rounds popping up in pub quizzes across the city.
Update: turns out I overlooked the Winter Beer Festival, which runs from 18–20 January in Manchester. It looks like it might be promising. You’ll need to get your skates on though as there are only a few tickets left.
Things are looking up a bit. Craft Beer Rising, the first major event of the year, takes place this month at the Truman Brewery on London’s Brick Lane. But first there’s something a touch more… intimate?
Stokey Beer Fest, 8–7 February
3 sessions. Tickets cost from £16.58 to £27.24 (including booking fee).
Back for its third year, this festival focuses on championing small, emerging independent brewers and cider makers from around the UK. It’s not huge, but it does look good. The list of brewers attending is as follows:
Bianca Road, Boutilliers, Boxcar, Elusive, The Kernel, Hop Stuff, Little Earth Project, Neptune, Ora, Seven Sisters, Solvay Society and cider distributor The Fine Cider Company, which will be bringing a collection of ciders from its portfolio.Stokey Beer Fest
Fancy a warm-up for CBR? This one’s a bit small for this post but worth a quick mention: Beavertown have a little one-day job on 16 February called Beavertown and the Seven Deadly Sins. It includes beers from Affinity, Wander Beyond, Beak, Vault City, Burning Soul, Hale, and Braybrooke. Nice line-up. Tickets are £37.90. Some people might choose not to go because of the whole Heineken thing. (They bought a minority stake in Beavertown last year. Beavertown acted like hypocrites. Not all buy-outs are equal and Heineken has done some shitty stuff in the past.) Plenty of others will go along and have a good time, I’m sure. Just make an informed decision and do what feels right for you.
Craft Beer Rising, 21–23 February
4 sessions. Tickets cost from £16.80 to £21.60.
It’s the first big beer event of the year! This festival is a great one if you want to try new beers – it’s often the place brewers will launch something fresh and exciting. This year there will be 155 breweries at the festival, plus 10 cider producers as well as other non-beer and alcohol-free options. There will also be the usual street food, music, expert talks, and ‘loads more content’ – whatever that means.
The venue is pretty good for this one. It’s spacious without feeling too much like an aircraft hanger. There is some seating, plus some quieter areas to get away from the excitable crush of beer nerds chasing their precious whalez.
Copy Cat, 21–23 February
4 sessions. Entry is free but a £5 ticket will get you priority entry, two cans of ‘Copy Cat’ Brut IPA and discounts Kill The Cat and the Two Tribes tap room.
Hmm. Those dates look familiar… This cheeky copy-cat festival probably isn’t going to steal CBR’s thunder any time soon but it might ride nicely on its coat-tails. Beer fans in town for CBR may well want to think about adding at least one session here to their beer itinerary because the list of attending breweries looks pretty sweet. (Especially if you like hazy IPAs.) The usual DJs ‘n’ street food rules apply.
There’s a new festival launching in March this year, and it looks pretty exciting: Cloudwater’s Friends and Family.
Friends and Family, 1–2 March
4 sessions. Tickets cost £60 plus fees, or £220 plus fees for all sessions. All-in tickets include unlimited 50ml or 100ml pours.
All of the profits from ticket sales will go to charity.
This is a celebration of everything we hold close to our hearts. We’ve invited all the folks we love spending time with to join us in Manchester for a festival that puts independent values front and centre, and recognises the efforts of the amazing thinkers, doers and downright wonderful people within our community.Cloudwater Brew Co
There are 59 breweries listed so far as attending, some of which look pretty interesting. Some American ones such as Trillium, The Bruery, Hill Farmstead and Jester King would definitely tempt me along. The UK contingent is strong too featuring The Kernel and DEYA, who I feel like we don’t get to see that often at events like this.
Cask Beer 2019, 16 March
2 sessions. Tickets cost £20. This gets you a festival glass and tokens for six half-pint pours with further tokens costing £2.50 each. Pints will also be on offer.
This one-dayer takes place in Bermondsey, south east London. I haven’t found a great deal of info on this one beyond what’s up on the ticket page, but that does include the list of breweries attending so do check it out. There’s also their Twitter account of course.
Head up north this month. Leeds is where the action is.
Hop City, 18–20 April
5 sessions. Tickets cost from £49, or £141 for all sessions. These are all-in tickets and include your beer too.
I can’t find any information yet about which breweries will be attending the festival, but Northern Monk, the brewery behind Hop City, promises this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever before. “Expect juice bombs, DIPAs, sours and murk,” they say. Well, that sounds OK by me.
The UK’s first hop-led beer festival returns for its third instalment in 2019. A celebration of the humble hop, Hop City brings some of the leading masters of brewing from around the world to the UK.Northern Monk Brew Co
This is the month that things start to hot up a bit – and I don’t just mean the weather. There’s quite a lot of events jostling for position this month. First up though, news of one that might not be going ahead any more.
The trade session of Ales Tales was pretty good fun last year but I’ve since heard that other sessions were not so enjoyable. Mainly because they weren’t run as well as they should have been by the organisers – or so I’m told. It would be a shame if this festival didn’t come back, as it was good to see one concentrating on Belgian beers. A few of the beers that came over made it out of the venue and appeared on tap at pubs in the area too, so there was a wider fringe benefit to the event that will also be missed.
One festival that is definitely returning though – and this time for its third year – is Women On Tap.
Women on Tap, 1–5 May 2019
Founded in Harrogate in 2017, Women On Tap presents unique events fusing beer, women and the arts in order to raise the profile of women in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
Details of 2019’s event haven’t been released yet but Founder Rachel Auty has confirmed that it will return in 2019 and provided me with some insight into what we can expect:
We’ve got an exciting vision to really push forward with even more bespoke events, a fringe programme at some of our favourite venues across the north, and a one-day Women In Beer conference. It’s going to be big! The focus will be on Harrogate again but with a wider regional footprint as we plan to deliver a huge party in May 2019 celebrating not only women and beer but also the fantastic beer destination that is the north of England.Rachel Auty
Next up, one of the big ones. And also the first of three from We Are Beer, whose events tend to be very well run, and very popular with brewers and punters alike.
Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival, 24–25 May
3 sessions. Tickets cost from £40 to £65, or £100 for a ticket to all sessions. Tickets are all-in and include beer.
The We Are Beer events include a VIP ticket option. For an extra twenty-five quid you get access to the sessions 15 minutes ahead of the hoi polloi – and if you miss that there is also a special VIP queue for quick access after that.
VIPs also get a goodie bag containing a t-shirt and one of the collaboration beers brewed specially for the festival. (These are usually pretty good.)
But wait, there’s more! You also get access to special beers in the We Are Beer room, or at the We Are Beer bar, and reserved seating to drink it in. Finally, you also get 20% off tickets to another session.
Whew. That’s quite a lot!
FyneFest, 31 May–3 June
Tickets cost from £19.50 to £74.50 (plus booking fees) with a few different options depending on the number of days, camping options, and discounts for locals. Maybe check out the ticketing FAQ for this one.
Just sneaking in at the very end of this selection, there’s the return of FyneFest, run by Fyne Ales up in Argyll. This event covers a long weekend of camping, music, food, and of course beer. There are no details yet about which breweries will be attending. Tickets are already on sale though, so I’m sure more news will be released soon.
Time to get across to Belgium. 2019, being an odd-numbered year, sees the return of the biannual Toer de Geuze on 4–5 May. This is organised by the High Council for Artisanal Lambic Beers (HORAL), and sees lambic breweries across the province of Flemish Brabant opening their doors to the public. This will be the 12th year the event has taken place. As yet there isn’t much information available, but if you want to see what the event is like the Craft Beer Channel boys covered the 2017 event over on YouTube.
Fancy a quick jaunt over to Copenhagen instead? Beer nerds often congregate here in May for the Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen. It’s not clear yet whether this will happen again in 2019. Information usually starts appearing around November of the preceding year but so far there don’t seem to be any details floating around. Maybe it’s not on this year? I don’t know… keep an eye out I guess.
Another May fixture that may or may not be returning is Uppers & Downers , Good Beer Hunting’s combined celebration of beer and coffee. This event usually runs over a couple of days and – although small compared to others listed here – is usually pretty well received. Again it’s worth keeping an eye out for this one.
Update: Uppers & Downers will not be returning to the UK. Downer, man. After Matt Curtis left in late 2018, Good Beer Hunting decided not to replace the post of UK Editor, which means there is no one here to organise the event. It will still take place in Chicago, as ever, but that’s somewhat beyond the scope of this post so I’ll leave you to google that one for yourselves.
That’s all for part one. Looking any further ahead at this point becomes frustrating at best, and often futile, as it’s just too early for any details to be available. But look out in the summer for the second part of this post, which will have details of more We Are Beer events, FyneFest, Indy Man and others.
If you know of any other events worth looking up between now and May, tell me about it in the comments below. Or if you have hard info on events scheduled from May onwards that would be good to include in the next post, let me know!