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Germany is famous for its beer, and its beer festivals that celebrate the drink, 99% of which contains only water, hops, malt and alter yeast. This country is one of the largest brewers of the stuff, with brands and tastes to suit every type of beer enthusiast. While fall is an especially popular time for attending these festivities, no matter what season you visit you’re likely to have the opportunity to join in on the fun.
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Munich is the birthplace of Oktoberfest, the biggest and most famous beer festival in the world. The 16-day festival that kicks off in late September brings over six million from across the globe, who consume an average of seven million liters of beer each year. It all began more than two centuries ago, in 1810, and as a celebration of Bavarian tradition, serving only beer that’s brewed within the city limits of Munich. It’s brewed just for this massive event and is extra strong, so beware – one mug is equal to eight shots of Schnapps. There is plenty of German fare to go along with it, including the usual sausages and pretzels, along with live music, singing and dancing.
Held for 17 days starting in late September each year, the Stuttgart Beer Festival, officially known as Cannstatter Volksfest, attracts over four million beer lovers from all corners of the globe as Germany’s second largest beer festival. It not only offers endless steins overflowing with beer in the massive festival tents, but all sorts of fairground-type rides like a Ferris wheel, swing carousel and roller coaster. This one is particularly family-friendly with lots of things for the little ones to do, including clowns and face painting. It also includes an impressive parade with horse-drawn brewery wagons, groups in traditional costumes, a variety of folk groups and bands the traverse through the narrow streets of the Bad Cannstatt suburb and on to the Wase.
Germany’s oldest fair is hosted during the final two weeks of October, which means if you miss Oktoberfest you’ll have another opportunity to enjoy a massive beer festival in northern Germany. It all began back in 1035 and brings some four million visitors to the area. The event features more than 320 attractions, including lots of rides, a huge street party and a colorful parade of floats. There are also lots of stalls selling a variety of items and tasty treats fried pastries, roasted almonds and licorice sweets.
The legendary Hamburg DOM, northern Germany’s largest public festival is held three times a year. The next one will take place November 9 through December 9, 2018, followed by the spring event, March 22 through April 22, 2019, and in the summer, July 26 through August 25, 2019. Not only are there beer tents and endless opportunities to enjoy the drink, but all sorts of tasty fare from multi-course meals and traditional snacks to sweets. On Friday nights, it all ends with a spectacular fireworks display.
The Starkbierfest, or the Strong Beer Festival, is a three-week extravaganza that takes place during early spring. Sometimes referred to as the “fifth season,” beer halls and breweries host their own Starkbierfests across Munich. You’ll be able to drink all sorts of fresh tasty brews, sing drinking songs, dance on tables and check out all the locals wearing their lederhosen to celebrate Bavarian culture, without the thick crowds found at the more well-known Oktoberfest.
Prepare your taste buds for a fortune of flavor, an abundance of aroma, a trove of textures: Munich Starkbier.
The International Berlin Beer Festival offers a great excuse to experience one of Germany’s greatest cities and taste beer from across the globe. It takes place over three days in early August and features over 300 breweries from more than 90 different countries that offer 2400 types of beer. In 2011, its Biermeile registered with the Guinness World Records at 5,921 feet, making it the world’s longest beer garden. Of course, there are plenty of food options to soak up all those suds, along with 19 different stages hosting live music throughout the festival, from German and Cuban to classic rock.
Similar to Oktoberfest but hosted in early June each year in Erlangen, Bavaria, Bergkirchweih attracts over a million over the course of the festival, approximately 10 times the population of the town itself. Attendees sit underneath the magnificent oak and chestnut trees that are decorated with paper lanterns, enjoying cold brews in stone beer mugs, all of which are local, specially brewed for the event. Franconian and international fare is available as well, including pretzels, sausage and delicious Obatzda cheese. Family-friendly, there are all sorts of rides and attractions for every age as well.
The largest celebration on the planet for beer and marksman, a rather unique combination, has been celebrated for nearly 500 years. Hosted annually in July, some 5,000 marksmen attend, with top marksmen featured in the Marksmen’s Parade, the highlight of the event. The 7.5-mile-long procession is the largest in Europe and includes over 10,000 participants from Germany and across the globe, with marksmen as well as decorated floats, over 100 bands, more than 60 wagons, carriages and other festival vehicles. There are also five large beer tents and carnival rides, including an impressive 200-foot-tall Steiger Ferris wheel which holds as many as 420 passengers.
Gaubodenvolksfest is a beer/agricultural festival that dates back to 1812. Held over 10 days in August, the celebration showcases beers from the Straubing-Bogen district and includes a Bavarian parade with traditional costumes, horse-drawn carriage rides, and endless beer tastings. Only breweries from the district are allowed to serve beer and it’s specially brewed for the event. One of Bavaria’s largest Volksfests (beer festival and traveling fun fair), it’s family-friendly and includes some 120 rides like roller coasters and carousels as well as seven large beer tents. Many of the approximately 1.4 million that attend don traditional Bavarian attire, helping to maintain the historic character of Bavarian festivals while making for some great people watching too.