When people think of ‘beer festivals’ and ‘Germany’, their minds generally go straight to Oktoberfest, the largest beer festival in the world. But in a country where beer is king – about 5 billion litres of the stuff is produced annually – it’s not surprising that hundreds of festivals devoted to beer exist throughout Germany. After living in Germany, I have come to appreciate beer festivals in all of their forms, from local tradition to international gathering. Here’s a look at a few favourites:


Stuttgart Cannstatter Volksfest

Beer Festival: Stuttgart Cannstatter Volksfest

This massive festival, colloquially known as ‘Wasan’ to the locals, is Oktoberfest’s largest beer rival. Tracing its origins back to 1818, this festival is a major draw with four million beer enthusiasts visiting each year. Stuttgart, one of Germany’s largest cities and known internationally as the birthplace of Mercedes Benz, is located in the Baden Wurtemburg region of the country, just west of Bavaria. Less touristy than Oktoberfest, but with much of the same charm (think fair rides, lederhosen, and various wursts), Wasan arguably provides a more authentic experience and one in which Germans are not in fact the minority. If you find that you’ve had you’re fill of beer, there’s tons in the city to keep you occupied as Stuttgart really is a first rate European city offering a host of unique cultural attractions and outdoor activities.

The Stuttgart Cannstatter Volksfest runs from September 28 to October 14, 2018.


International Berlin Beer Festival

Beer Festival: Internationales Berliner Bierfestival

For a city globally recognized as being hip, electic, and international, it’s not a shocker that its annual beer fest follows suit. While more traditional German festivals showcase their own local brews, the Berliner Bierfest, in only it’s 16th year, is substantially more diverse, offering 2,000 different beers from all over the world – from the mainstream to microbrews and craft beers. Don’t think you’ll be able to make it through a stein of each? You’re in luck. Organizers now offer a 0.2 litre mini-stein so that beer goers can truly ‘taste the world’. The fest is known by many Berliners simply as the ‘Biermeile’ (or Beer Mile) as the beer flows continuously for more than two kilometres, which organizers say makes it the longest beer garden in the world. And you thought drinking a yard of beer was a challenge. Relative to many other German beer festivals, the Biermeile is short but sweet comprising just three days over the first weekend in August.

The International Berlin Beer Festival runs from August 3 to 5, 2018.


Erlangen Bergkirchweih

Beer Festival: Erlangen Beer Fest

Like Oktoberfest, the Erlangen Bergkirchweih, or ‘Berg’ to locals, is a traditional Bavarian beer festival but on a significantly smaller and more authentic scale. For two weeks in May, around one million people (about ten times the city’s population), descend on the festival and its ‘kellers’ (aka cellers) which are essentially beer gardens along a hill, extending from street level to above the treeline – which I feel would violate several building codes and drinking laws in Canada. Fortunately, it is perfectly legal in Erlangen and the predominately young, local crowd drink the regional beer from each keller from ceramic steins against the stunning backdrop of tall oak trees. The Berg has a vast history as it was established in 1755, around the time when the brewers used to store their beer in cellers under the hill. Expect to find many similarities to Oktoberfest including locals clad in dirndls and lederhosen, lebkuchenherz (gingerbread heart cookie), and brezel (pretzel – and the largest one I’ve encountered. Ever). While Erlangen is a smaller town, it is very well located given its close proximity to Nuremburg and easy access to Frankfurt and Munich.

The Erlangen Bergkirchwein runs from the May 17 to 28, 2018.


Bremen Freimarkt

Beer Festival: Freimarkt Bremen

Now moving about 600km north to Bremen, or about an hour south west from Hamburg, is the oldest fair in Germany: the Bremen Freimarkt. While I am certain that this festival has changed substantially in the 1,000 years since its inception, the Freimarkt prides itself on having more carnival rides than any other festival alongside its fantastic market where purveyors of all things food, arts, and craftsmanship offer their goods for sale. Given its close proximity to the North Sea, fish is the main culinary offering with such delicacies as matje herring and smoked eel. While not technically a beer festival, there is enough of an emphasis on German beer to be included here. Now all that’s left is to jump on the 150 ft ferris wheel, eat some smoked fish, grab a half litre of Becks and proclaim “Ischa Freimarkt!”.

The Bremen Freimarkt runs from October 19 to November 4, 2018.


Kulmbach Bierwoche

Beer Festival: Kulmbach Bierwoche

In northern Bavaria, deep in the Bamberg region – a region with the highest concentration of beer manufacturers in the world – something is ‘a brewing’. While this “beer week” is definitely on a smaller scale than the others mentioned, it is the only one that is exclusively beer focused. While the others have side attractions like rides, parades, and the occasional shooting competition, this one is strictly all beer. What a glorious week. A relative newbie on the German beer festival scene, this festival was established in 1939, and today is put on by the renowned brewery, Kulmbacher, whose beer it features, including the Kulminator 28, one of the strongest beers in the world. Located in the Thuringian Forest in the Franconian region, Kulmbach is situated in the northern region of Bavaria and is ideally suited for further travel around Germany.

The Kulmbach Bierwoche runs from July 28 to August 5, 2018.


While the above list is not at all exhaustive, is represents an eclectic mix of beer festival experiences in Germany. While Oktoberfest is the de facto German festival experience that I would gladly do for a third year in a row (see our post here), these alternative festivals have a few things in common: they are more locally oriented and all embrace beer. My type of festival.

Read Our Follow-Up Article: 8 More German Beer Festivals that Rival Oktoberfest


German Beer Festival photos courtesy of Flickr: pyanezs, Chasing Donguri, 305x, mac.black.


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Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth co-founded Departful in 2012 and is the Managing Director of Departful Media. Since then she has worked between North America and Europe and has published content in partnership with a variety of tourism boards and businesses based around the world. Lauren is currently based in Toronto, Canada.

Departful is a travel magazine that provides accessible, relevant, and thoughtful travel tips and ideas to inspire people to explore the world around them. We feature travel articles, travel tips, and photography based on our own experiences from over 100 countries covering all things adventure, culture, food and drink, technology, and gear. Made with ❤ in Toronto.

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