As travellers who love to drink (or is that drinkers who love to travel?), we’ve long thought of the German beer festival as the ultimate destination.  Over the years as we’ve traversed Germany, we’ve had the opportunity to enjoy many of the country’s incredible beerfests, from the über local, where we were among the only non-residents, to the the headliners like Oktoberfest, where we braved the crowds and lined up at dawn.

While there are a few common themes that tie many German beer festivals together, each has unique attributes that make them worth the visit. And even though some don’t advertise themselves specifically as “beer festivals”, many of Germany’s top fun fairs, agricultural festivals or sporting events have a strong beer presence with beer tents, concerts and a host of activities coordinated by local breweries.

With such an impressive and overwhelming array of beer festivals taking place throughout the country and the year, it can be hard to pick and choose where and when to visit. To help you out, the Prostly team has taken on the laborious task of mapping out many of Germany’s top beer festivals by date and location. Check out the infographic below for key dates and locations, or scroll on to find more detailed overviews of each festival. And for those of you who are particularly keen, why not try to visit them all?

2018 German Beer Festival Guide

Starkbierfest

March 2 – March 25
As if Munich didn’t have enough festival action, its annual Starkbierfest – or strong beer festival – takes over the city every March. Big breweries like Paulaner and Löwenbräu serve up their starkbiers, boasting ABVs upwards of 8%, to thousands of patrons in their beer halls. It’s a noticeably more local affair versus other German beer festival where you’ll encounter traditional decorations, classic Bavarian attire, litre steins of excellent beer, hearty stomach-coating eats, lively music and raucously fun times. Started in the 17th century by Paulaner’s brewing monks who crafted the strong beer recipe to consume during their fasting period, Starkbierfest has been around longer than Oktoberfest.


Munich Frühlingsfest

April  20 – May 8
For those of you who can’t make it to Oktoberfest, or who desperately want to avoid the massive crowds, Munich has a backup plan for you. This springtime beer festival is a lot like its ‘big brother’ fest but on a smaller scale, with three traditional tents and a large beer garden on the same ‘Wiesn’ grounds. Visitors will also find carnival rides, traditional garb, hearty food, oompah music and, most importantly, litres of Munich’s famous brews. Though many elements of Frühlingsfest are similar to Oktoberfest, the spring beer festival has a noticeably more local and relaxed atmosphere.


Augsburger Plärrer

April 1 – April 15; August 24 – September 9
Augsburg’s Plärrer attracts a mostly local crowd of half a million to its two week festival, making it Swabia’s largest beer festival. Here you’ll find everything that makes German beer festivals so great: high octane rides, a weekly firework show, food stalls serving up delicious Swabian dishes, and refreshing mugs of local beer brewed in Augsburg. Three beer tents provide a fun and convivial experience that shouldn’t be missed. And best of all, the festival happens twice per year – first in the spring and again in the fall, so don’t worry if you miss it on the first go around!


Bierbörse

Visit bierboerse.com for 2018 dates
While beer festivals are ingrained in many regions of Germany, most notably Bavaria, other parts of the country don’t have a similar traditions. Enter Bierbörse, a roaming beer festival that sets up in over two dozen cities throughout the spring and summer. Established some thirty years ago, Bierbörse has continued to attract beer drinking locals to its events offering up a diverse offering of German and international brews, an array of regional foods, and a full schedule of music and entertainment. Many of the events are held in cities in the Rhine river region like Bonn, Koblenz, and Mainz but also pop up in other areas devoid of a flagship beer fest. Traditional festival this is not, but it does offer up interesting and unique brews and a fun atmosphere for a few days at a time.


Erlangen Bergkirchweih

May 17 – May 28, 2018
This smaller town in Franconia near Nuremberg is home to the oldest beer festival in the world – the Erlangen Bergkirchweih. Though the city might not be top of mind for international visitors, Erlangen’s brewing history runs deep. A few hundred years ago, the small town had 18 breweries and exported more beer than anywhere else in Bavaria, including Munich, and a beer festival has been a part of the Erlangen’s culture since 1755. Over one million beer drinkers visit the ‘Berg’ festival annually, which is set at the base of the hill below the town’s castle where brewers built cellars (“kellers”) to store their beers in the 18th century. Every year, each keller erects a ‘beer garden’ starting at the base of the hill and extending up, while huge leafy trees are adorned with paper lanterns. It’s truly a unique setting to enjoy the special Bergkirch beer that local breweries brew exclusively for the festival.


Hannover Schützenfest

June 29 – July 8, 2018
The capital of Lower Saxony puts on a festival each year that brings together rides, beer and shooting – a combination that might not be top of mind for some. However, marksmen competitions are a tradition in many German towns and the Schützenfest is the most prominent across the country with 5,000 individuals competing, and traces its history back over 500 years. While first and foremost a marksmen festival, the Hannover Schützenfest draws in visitors with five grand beer tents, hundreds of rides and games, a cornucopia of culinary options, and one hell of a parade that caps off the festivities.


Annafest Forchheim

July 20 – July 30, 2018
Annafest has been celebrated in Forchheim, a quaint town in Upper Franconia between Bamberg and Nuremberg, since 1840. A traditional folk festival at its core, Annafest offers thrilling rides and games for kids and adults alike over the course of its ten-day stint in July – a time when you’re pretty much guaranteed wonderful weather. The festival’s twenty kellers boast 30,000 outdoor seats making it the largest beer garden in Bavaria. But what really makes it special is the abundance of large leafy trees that not only provide a lovely ambiance, but some much needed shade as well. This is where you’ll find locals kicking back with a stein of beer (there are several breweries on the roster) and a ‘Brotzeit’, a platter of delicious Franconian foods, shared amongst friends.


Kulmbacher Bierwoche

July 28 – August 5, 2018
Kulmbach is a small town in Upper Franconia, a region of Bavaria that’s pretty blessed when it comes to beer. Kulmbach, whom locals refer to as ’the secret capital of beer’, is a brewing powerhouse, especially impressive as the town’s population hovers around 30,000 people. The local Kulmbacher-Mönschof brewery exports its beers globally and its brews are well known around the world. The town’s annual Bierwoche (‘beer week’) is, you guessed it, a week of beer – and what a great week it is. Began in 1939 by Kulmbacher as a way to promote the town and its rich beer history, Bierwoche moved venues this past year from the city centre to the Kulmbacher brewery grounds, which have a classic beer garden appeal. Thankfully throughout the years, this German beer festival continues to be focused fully on just one thing – beer.


Internationales Berliner Bierfestival

August 3 – August 5, 2018
Berlin’s annual festivities prove that not all German beer festivals have to revolve solely around German beer. Much like the diversity of this international city, the International Berlin Beer Festival features a round up of beers from around the globe, with a particular region in the spotlight each year. Expect traditional breweries intermixed with prominent craft brewers, giving drinkers the best of both worlds. The ‘Biermeile’, as locals know it, is over two kilometres of beer sprawl along the Karl-Marx Allee, making it the longest beer garden in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. If this German beer festival intrigues you, don’t miss your chance to visit as it’s only held for one weekend each August.


Gäubodenvolksfest

August 10 – August 20, 2018
Gäubodenvolksfest is a Bavarian beer festival in Straubing, a town east of Munich situated on the Danube River. What began as an agricultural event has morphed into an epic eleven-day festival featuring roller coasters, carnival games, parades, and seven beer tents serving litre beers from local breweries Karmeliten, Irlbacher, Röhrl, and Erl. The tents are on par with those at Oktoberfest seating upwards of 5,000 people, most notably the Ochsenbraterei Wenisch, which has a super cool carousel bar within the tent. As we’re still in Bavaria, you can expect hearty meals, full brass bands, and lederhosen.


Barthelmarkt

August 25 – August 28, 2018
The small Bavarian town of Oberstimm hosts an unassuming festival over the last weekend in August. Locals claim that the Barthelmarkt was an event introduced by their Roman founders in the first century BC as a market for cattle, and to this day the event features a livestock market on the last day of festivities. Five tents offer a variety of beers including Ingobräu, Spaten and Löwenbräu as wells as tents offering exclusively weissbier (‘wheat beers’) for this last hurrah of summer. The tents are reminiscent of the ones at Oktoberfest, with classic decorations and live music, and they fill up extremely quickly upon opening – another similarity to Munich’s festival. For those unable to snag a seat inside, there’s plenty of beer to be had outside in the sun.


Limmersdorfer Lindenkirchweih

August 25 – August 28, 2018
Like many of the German beer festivals covered already, the Limmersdorfer Lindenirchweih is yet another Bavarian fest. The small town lies in the middle of Bayreuth and Kulmbach in the Northern Franconia region. The festivities of Lindenkirchweih, which are Lutheran in origin, revolve around a 350 year old Linden tree (I’ll take any excuse for a beer festival), which locals dance around during the weekend event. And like any good German beer festival, there are varying legends as to how the tree came to be planted, though the festivals importance to the culture is undeniable – the town has requested the festival to be listed as a UNESCO cultural event. And what’s not to love – plenty of dancing, music, traditions, and, best of all, beer.


Baiersdorf Krenmarkt

September 16, 2018
The town of Baiersdorf in Upper Franconia has two things going for it: beer and horseradish. For one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it day every year, the locals gather at the end of the farming season to celebrate the horseradish crop, which is thought to have been introduced in the region over 500 years ago. To get the festivities going, the Horseradish Queen (a title that one lucky lady holds for a year) and the town Mayor mark the occasion and invite everyone to enjoy the local crop. Unsurprisingly, everything revolves around horseradish: a horseradish statue, horseradish dumplings, and even horseradish schnapps. If horseradish isn’t your thing, lucky for you there’s Franconian beer, which is well worth the trip on its own.


Oktoberfest

September 22 – October 7, 2018
As the world’s most infamous beer festival, Munich’s Oktoberfest brings an astounding number of beer drinkers to the southern state of Bavaria each and every year. The festival dates back to 1810 when Bavarians were invited to partake in the lavish marriage celebration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, for whom the Oktoberfest grounds, Theresienwiese, are named. Munich’s six local breweries provide the only beers on offer at the festival, with each producing a seasonal Märzen beer, a darker and stronger brew for the fall. Despite the fact that large portions of the six million visitors are tourists, Oktoberfest manages to maintain its traditional Bavarian charm.


Cannstatter Volksfest

September 28 – October 14, 2018
Not far from Munich, Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Wurtemburg, puts on its own large-scale beer festival that overlaps Oktoberfest. While ‘Wasen’, the local name for the fest, doesn’t boast quite as many visitors as Munich’s, the world’s second largest beer festival has a much healthier German to tourist ratio. The traditional garb of neighbouring Bavaria has largely been adopted meaning you can expect to see many festival-goers in dirndls or lederhosen, though it’s not a historical custom. The overall tone of this German beer festival is similar in many respects to Oktoberfest, with tents, rides and a ton of beer, yet the Stuttgart Cannstatter Volksfest has a stronger party vibe, particularly at night in the tents.


Bremer Freimarkt

October 19 – November 4, 2018
A major city in northern Germany, Bremen’s Freimarkt is a delight for kids and adults alike as its fun-fair meets beer-fest attracts four million people yearly. Boasting the more rides and attractions than any other German beer festival (320 in case you were wondering), the Freimarkt is the oldest fair in Germany with roots dating all the way back to 981. The festival kicks off with a lively parade of colourful floats and costumed revellers making their way through the city centre, while Bremen’s residents look on. On the Freimarkt’s expansive grounds you’ll also find carnival games, dozens of food stalls and an Oktoberfest-style beer tent where you can throw back a few of the local brews. If you’re not ready to call it a night when the festival closes, the party keeps on going at Halle arena nearby until the sun comes up.


Hamburger DOM

March 23 – April 22; July 27 – August 26; November 9 – December 9, 2018
Hamburg, the most northern city on this list, features not one large German beer festival but three throughout the year: winter, spring and summer iterations. Hamburg is a large city, second by population after Berlin, and is transected by the Elbe River and near the North Sea. The festival harks back to the time when the Mariendom Cathedral was used as shelter during the winter, though demolished in 1804 the event continues to live on. No matter what season you’re visiting, expect hundreds of rides and attractions, excellent food offerings (including local specialty herring sandwiches), and several drink stands serving up various boozy beverages.


Prostly Team

Prostly Team

Prostly (this thing you're looking at right now) is a travel magazine that features incredible locations around the world and the beers, bars and brewers that call them home.

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