There was a time, not so long ago, that beer was frowned upon. Walking into a London pub in my early 20s I often faced the choice of lager or bitter, and if I was really lucky maybe a pint of Guinness. But things have changed and there is a plethora of beer on display ranging from the hoppy to the flowery, the traditional bitter to golden summer ales and weissbeer. Unsurprisingly, this has also seen an explosion in the number of beer festivals around the globe.
Part of the reason for this is the fine work undertaken by CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale), who have striven for the recognition and appreciation of traditional beer. One of the highlights of the beer drinkers calendar is the Ealing Beer Festival, organised by CAMRA and held in grassy Walpole Park in West London. Sample anything from a cloudy beer with a hint of grapefruit to a thick porter you can stand your pen in. There’s even wine and cider for those with a less-discerning palate.
Another reason for the resurgence of beer is the emergence of craft ale – what we used to call homebrew in my childhood. Nowhere is this more the case than in the US, where the craft beer revolution commenced. While San Diego might claim to be the craft beer capital of America, there are American beer festivals across the country, including the Mammoth Festival of Beers or Bluesapalooza and the Great American Beer Festival. Often these double up as music festivals offering both kinds of music – Country and Western.
However, nowhere, with the possible exception of Germany, do the people take their beer as seriously as in Belgian. On any visit to the capital Brussels, you must surely note the reverence its inhabitants pay towards the mighty ale. And, if you travel around the country be sure to check up on what festivals are taking place during your visit. The Bruges Beer Festival and Zythos Bierfestival in Leuven are two that you just should not miss on your Belgium holidays.
If you are more into wine than beer then despair not, the world overflows with wine festivals too. For a slightly off-the-beaten-track wine experience then why not try the National Wine Day Moldova, a massive celebration of the vineyards that used to supply half of the Soviet Union’s wine. Or there is the Fiesta de la Vendiama in Chile, where you can watch the grapes being harvested, or even perhaps join in.
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