Beer Festivals

Beer festivals take place world wide and during many times of the year, but perhaps the most famous beer fests are those that happen during Oktoberfest time. Beer festivals are among the most popular festivals in the world, and they cannot be discussed without first mentioning the granddaddy of them all—the world-famous Oktoberfest held in Munich, Germany, in September and October. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of beer events held around the world that today call themselves "Oktoberfest" and which are patterned after the Munich original. There is even an Oktoberfest in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Oktoberfest in Munich is one of the top world festivals to be found anywhere, attracting more than 5 million attendees each year. It was begun in 1810 with a horserace to celebrate the marriage of the Crown Prince Ludwig. The following year, an agricultural show was added. Today, the Oktoberfest beer events are accompanied by the consumption of huge amounts of food, including uniquely Bavarian specialties like sausages, pretzels, potato pancakes, red cabbage, sauerkraut, and much more. There are close to a couple dozen tents that each can accommodate several thousand revelers. Each beer tent boasts its own ambience with music that ranges from rock bands to traditional brass bands with a yodeler.

The Germans brought their beer festivals to South America as well. German citizens began migrating to South American countries (particularly Brazil and Argentina) in the mid-1800s. The city of Blumenau, Brazil, was founded in 1850 by a German doctor of the same name, and the city's Oktoberfest draws more than a million tourists each year. The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is held in those twin cities in the province of Ontario in Canada. This region also has a large ethnic German population. The Oktoberfest Zinzinnati is held in Cincinnati, Ohio, and draws more than 500,000 attendees. These three beer events are the largest outside of Germany.

Beer is one of the oldest beverages in the world. It's been brewed in one form or another since quite a few hundred years before the Christian Era. During Medieval times, virtually every farmer brewed his own beer. Even monks in the monasteries of Europe got into the business of brewing the beverage, which most people drank on a daily basis. Most of the best beer fests in the world originate from that tradition. They are particularly plentiful in Europe, where monks in monasteries preserved beer brewing secrets for generations before modern breweries appeared on the scene. There are a number of beer festivals in just about every country, including the Belgian Beer Festival, celebrating the 500 or so different beers made in this small country. Or you can attend the Great British Beer Festival held in London in August; the May Copenhagen Beer Festival that showcases nearly 100 Danish micro-breweries; or the Belgrade Beer Fest held in May in the capital of Serbia. Which are the best beer fests among all these is a matter of opinion and national pride.

Many of the best beer fests are commercially sponsored. This has been true for hundreds of years in the United Kingdom where entire towns once owed their fame and livelihood to a local brewery. More recently, brewing associations have banded together to sponsor events like the Great American Beer Fest held in Denver, Colorado in September. Recently, microbreweries and craft beers have become extremely popular and have sprung up around the United States. These are celebrated at the Boston Beer Festival, officially the American Craft Beer Fest, during the month of June. The Northwest has a great microbrew culture, and the Portland Beer Fest is one the best events in that part of the country.

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