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Craft Beer Festival Guide: A Journey Through Global and Local Celebrations

Today, let’s talk about some of the most exciting events in the world of beer – craft beer festivals. These gatherings are not just about tasting new brews but are also hubs where breweries meet each other, organize future collaborations, and showcase their latest creations to beer lovers like us. Craft beer festivals come in various shapes and sizes. From smaller, local affairs featuring neighborhood breweries to grand international spectacles like the Mikkeller Beer Celebration, each offers a unique experience tailored to celebrate the diversity of craft beer. Some use token systems where you pay for each beer, others opt for all-inclusive tastings, and some have different sessions to manage the flow of beer enthusiasts, ensuring each session features new beers.


I love attending these festivals, not only when I pour myself while representing St. Laurentius but also to taste the incredible range of flavors and styles brewed worldwide. Plus, the friendships among fellow brewers and attendees make each festival a memorable experience – and trust me, I’ve almost lost count of how many beer festivals we’ve hit up just this year! But don't worry all of them will happen again, so this list can help plan your next festival summer.


Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and revisit some standout festivals I've had the pleasure of attending:


 

Swiss Beer Festivals:





In the heart of Aarau, the Markthalle becomes a mecca for beer enthusiasts. This festival is all about local pride, featuring 12 local breweries and over 100 beers to sample. Since most breweries here are smaller in size, it's especially important to show support. The token system ensures you can explore diverse flavors at your own pace, with options ranging from small sips to full glasses. And let’s not forget the delicious bites available to complement the brews! We've been visiting this festival since the beginning and are proud to say that the organizers even joined our tour a couple of years ago.


- Where? Markthalle, Aarau

- When? Annually in spring

- Sessions? No sessions, continuous event

- All-inclusive/Tokens/Direct Payment? Tokens

- Breweries: 12 local breweries



Hosted by ETH Zurich, this festival brought an evening of discovery with five esteemed Swiss breweries showcasing their best. The vibe here is great, with a mix of seasoned connoisseurs and newcomers diving into all of the flavors. Pro tip: Bring your glass from the year before to skip the branded glass fee and dive straight into the tasting! This is a rather small festival, but this gives you the chance to talk to the brewers about their creations (and also possibly to taste all of the beers).


- Where? ETH Zurich, in front of CAB

- When? May 16 & 17, 2024

- Sessions? No sessions, continuous event

- All-inclusive/Tokens/Direct Payment? Direct Payment at breweries

- Breweries: 5 Swiss breweries





Very close to Zurich, St. Laurentius hosts a cozy festival celebrating local breweries and their diverse beer styles in Bülach. With a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of food options, it’s a perfect blend of community spirit and craft beer appreciation. This year, due to weather conditions, the festival had to move indoors to the St. Laurentius Brewpub.


- Where? Lindenhof Bülach (usually)

- When? May 31 - June 1, 2024

- Sessions? No sessions, continuous event

- All-inclusive/Tokens/Direct Payment? Direct Payment at breweries

- Breweries: 12 Swiss breweries




In Pavilion Sicli, Geneva’s festival combines brewers, winemakers, and artisans for a weekend of indulgence. With over 50 exhibitors offering their finest beverages and foods, it’s a must-visit for anyone passionate about the craft scene. This festival is also a great choice for your friends who aren't keen on beer, as there’s plenty of wine to enjoy too. Another highlight is the variety of food options, ranging from Japanese Karaage to Berlin-style Döner. You can find a diverse and amazing selection of food here.


- Where? Pavilion Sicli, Geneva

- When? October 13-14, 2023

- Sessions? No sessions, continuous event

- All-inclusive/Tokens/Direct Payment? Direct Payment at breweries

- Breweries: 50 exhibitors (Breweries, Wineries etc.)

- Line-up Highlights: A Tue Tête, l'Apaisee, Tilquin


International Festivals:




This international powerhouse of a festival, the Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen (MBCC), stands as a mecca for beer geeks worldwide. It's not just an event; it's a pilgrimage where beer geeks attend to expand their beer palates. MBCC offers multiple sessions over several days, providing a unique opportunity to explore exclusive brews crafted specifically for the event. Each session introduces new beers, so be sure to attend on time to try the special brews before they run out. Although MBCC is a must-visit for every beer geek, some prefer smaller festivals as there are often long queues in front of popular breweries, making it difficult to try everything.


- Where? Copenhagen, Denmark

- When? Annually in May

- Sessions? Yes

- All-inclusive/Tokens/Direct Payment? Session tickets / All-inclusive

- Breweries: Over 100 breweries

- Line-up Highlights: Toppling Goliath, Omnipollo, Ārpus




Back at Northern Monk's Old Flax Store, HopCity gathers hoppy beers from around the world. Whether you love hazy pales or bold IPAs, citrusy aromas, bold bitterness, or experimental hop blends, HopCity promises to satisfy every hop lover's palate. At HopCity, you can explore beers from famous breweries worldwide with minimal waiting and enjoy delicious food options such as Birria Tacos and fantastic pizzas. The lineup here is every beer geek's dream, with some of the best breweries from Europe, the US, and the UK. Even though I didn't realize this would be a "hoppy beers only" festival, it was still one of my favorites. I met many people during my visit, and Leeds is generally an amazing city.


- Where? The Old Flax Store, Leeds

- When? Annually in spring

- Sessions? No sessions on Friday (split into afternoon & evening sessions on Saturday)

- All-inclusive/Tokens/Direct Payment? All-inclusive with token option

- Breweries: 35 breweries

- Line-up Highlights: Fidens, Root&Branch, Parish, Overtone




Heading to Sofia, the Balkan Beer Bash shines a spotlight on the top talents in Balkan and European brewing. Featuring an impressive lineup of over 150 beers from 40 breweries on tap, it’s a lively celebration that draws beer enthusiasts from all over the continent. Set in an old warehouse a bit outside of the city center, there's plenty of space for amazing beer. Whether you’re enjoying a refreshing lager from Bulgaria, a bold IPA from Romania, or a robust stout from Poland, this festival offers quality beer from all over Europe. This was my first time attending this festival, and I have to say I will definitely go back. Well organized, awesome beer selection, great people - this festival has everything you could wish for. The only downside was the scorching heat on both days, so don't forget to drink water – and I don't mean mass-produced Lager ;)


- Where? Sofia, Bulgaria

- When? June 7-8, 2024

- Sessions? No sessions, continuous event

- All-inclusive/Tokens/Direct Payment? All-inclusive

- Breweries: Nearly 40 breweries


 

Each of these festivals offers a unique glimpse into the passion and creativity that defines the craft beer movement. Whether you’re a seasoned hophead or just dipping your toes into the world of craft beer, there’s a festival waiting to welcome you with open arms and a cold brew. So, mark your calendars, gather your friends, and join us in raising a glass to the wonderful world of craft beer!


Which was your favorite beer festival so far, let us know in the comments!


Cheers,


Your Zurich Beer Tour Guides

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