Beer is a huge part of Germany’s culture, with over 1300 breweries serving up 5000 individual beers, so it’s no surprise that beer festivals are common in this country. While best known for Munich’s Oktoberfest, which draws at minimum 6 million people over 16-18 days, there are many many other authentic festivals and events that occur year-round in all parts of German. If you’re planning to travel to this popular country, plan your trip around one of these popular events. So raise your stein and prost to these 10 best German beer festivals.
Stuttgart Beer Festival, Stuttgart
With over 4 million people in attendance every year, Stuttgart Beer Festival is the second largest and well known brew fest in the world. Established by King Wilhelm to signify the end of the German famine in 1818, it only seemed fitting that the end of the food crisis be celebrated with a huge open-air market, live music, fair, and lots and lots of beer – over 70 brands to be exact! Though aspects of it have evolved over the years, the heart and soul of the festival remains the same to keep with traditions.
Dedicated to beer and only beer, the Kulmbacher Bierfest showcases the town’s 4 brew houses in one new large Stadl tent in the heart of town, where brewery staff hawk their beer along with traditional Bavarian street food. Around 130,000 people party hard over 9 days in Nordbayern in northern Bavaria.
The world’s largest celebration for marksman and beer (always a superb combination) runs every year in the summer. First celebrated in 1529, the fair welcomes 5,000 marksmen, a colorful collection of fair rides, a half dozen beer tents, and an infamous Marksmen’s Parade, a 7.5-mile-long parade consisting of top marksmen, marching bands, floats, and 1.5 million spectators, which wins it the title of longest parade (and maybe even best entertainment) in all of Europe.
Gäubodenvolksfest, Danube Region
A family-friendly agricultural festival that first began back in 1812, Gäubodenvolksfest is an 11-day festival in August that showcases beers from the Straubing-Bogen region. It also features a Bavarian parade with traditional costumes, horse carriage rides and other attractions, and of course, a very large beer tent!
Munich’s Frühlingfest, or “Spring Festival” (held in April and May), is a mini Oktoberfest in many ways. For one, it’s held on the very same grounds, the Theresienwiese. Secondly, it consists of the same ammo – an alluring combination of beer tents, midway rides, and traditional polka bands. However, only about 80,000 people attend this festival – much lower than its “big sister Oktoberfest.
Another Munich volksfest known for its local craft beers and super-fun name (“Starkbierzeit” translates to “strong beer time”) has been ushering in the spring season with a dark beer celebration every March since 1751. Local brew houses must produce their strongest beer – a minimum of 7.5% alcohol – prior to Lent. Munich brews 40 varieties of it, with some varieties containing as much as 19% alcohol! Now that’s the makings of a good party!
International Beer Festival, Berlin
The brews flow continuously during the first weekend of August for Berlin’s annual beer festival, which welcomes over 1 million visitors from all over the globe. Attendees flock to Karl-Marx-Allee, the city’s official “beer mile”, which stretches 2.2 kilometers from Frankfurter Tor to Strausberger Platz. This massive beer garden offers up to 2,000 varieties of beer for your sampling pleasure from 85 different countries.
If you can’t get to Germany for Oktoberfest in early October, you can still get your um-pa-pa on for the Bremen Freimarkt, Germany’s oldest fair which happens at the end of October into November for 17 days. Established in 1035, this massive beer festival, street party, and carnival draws approximately 4 million visitors to Northern Germany. In addition to great beer, there are tons of rides and carnival food, perfect if you’re hoping to take the kids to this German beer festival.
Around 250,000 people attend Barthelmarkt, which is celebrated on the final weekend of August each year in Ingolstadt in central Bavaria. First established in 1354, Barthelmarkt was first attended by Roman settlers in first century BC, who named the festival in honor of St. Bartholomew, the patron saint of the town’s church.
No list would be complete without the mother of all beer festivals – Munich’s Oktoberfest – which traditionally takes place from late September to the first weekend in October every year. Entrance is free and the beer is flowing at this huge 16-day German beer festival, which draws more than 6 million people from all around the world (making it the biggest festival worldwide). The world’s largest fair has been pouring celebrated brews of all hues and flavors since 1810. Time to get drinking!