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Sipping in the summer: Britain’s best beer festivals

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Beer and ale festivals

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Ah, the glorious British summer. I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to another year of dependably excellent weather, a total lack of hosepipe bans and the chance to cool off after a warm day with a pint or two of golden ale…

OK, maybe dependable weather and a lack of hosepipe bans are a little bit of wishful thinking on my part but we’ve just come through a pretty mean winter so I can be forgiven for having some hope! The one thing I can guarantee this summer is the opportunity to enjoy some excellent British beer.

There are loads of great beer festivals going on up and down the country this summer, showcasing the best of local beers. Craft ale brewing is getting bigger and better all the time so there’s no better time to book your cheap train ticket and head to one of the best UK beer festivals. We’ve picked out one festival for each summer month to get you started…

June: beer with the bard

No-one will ever know for sure but it’s a pretty safe bet that Shakespeare loved his beer. He paid homage to it in ‘The Winter’s Tale’ when the irascible Autoclycus sings: “For a quart of ale is a dish for a king.”

The line might not be as famous as “to be or not to be” but for beer drinkers, it makes a lot more sense. Stratford-Upon-Avon is at the heart of Shakespeare country – home to the Royal Shakespeare Company and a focal point for fans of the Bard. How better to celebrate Shakespeare’s work (and his love of beer) than by going to the Stratford-upon-Avon Beer & Cider Festival?

This year the festival is running on the 14th and 15th of June and will be offering 55 real ales from around the UK and 25 selected ciders and perries. The event will take place at the Stratford-upon-Avon racecourse at the edge of town where you’ll be able to enjoy some excellent beers from local breweries and around the country.

Get there: The train station in Stratford-upon-Avon drops you off right in the town centre, and is just a twenty minute walk from the race course. Book your rail travel early to find the best train ticket deals.

July: a cacophony with kegs

Posh and Becks, fish and chips… these are some of the best combos in the world but there is one better – beer and music! Head for the Hastings Beer and Music Festival, which is running on the 5th and 6th of July, to enjoy a great mix of beer and beats.

In the past this lively festival has been headlined by international chart toppers Keane and legendary rockers Status Quo but these days the event has been taking a back-to-basics approach. Local bands now take centre stage, which is fitting because many of the liquid stars of the show come from local breweries.

Over a hundred real ales, premium lagers and ciders will be available to quench the thirst of the most discerning drinker. And if the drinking and dancing gives you an appetite then you’ll find some top-quality local food from vendors around the event. Get your tickets early though – last year was a sell-out and this year looks likely to repeat that success.

Get there: The festival is being held in Alexandra Park in Hastings. To get there, hop on a train to Hastings and make for the South East. The railway station is only fifteen minutes away from the venue.

August: the big one

Britain’s marquee beer festival takes place in August when the Great British Beer Festival kicks off in London. The festival will take place over five days this year, from the 13th to the 17th of August at the London Olympia, offering visitors the chance to enjoy some of the best domestic and foreign beers available.

The atmosphere at last year’s event was electric with hordes of drinkers in fancy dress indulging their genuine passion for finely crafted beers and cider. Nearly 50,000 drinkers attended the festival to enjoy the unique carnival atmosphere and this year looks like it’ll be just as exciting.

There’ll be over 800 cask and bottled real ales, ciders and foreign beers available across the event. And with pints averaging at around £3.50, a trip to the festival won’t break the bank. This festival is organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) who champion local pubs and proper real ales, so you’ll be in good hands.

Get there: There’s no shortage of trains to London so getting there is easy. London Olympia is the only venue in the capital that has its own dedicated rail terminal so you may be able to get a train straight to the event. If not, five underground lines are connected to the venue.

What’s your favourite beer festival?

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    • Sue_1345067678

    • May 15, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    If you travel by train to Stratford-upon-Avon for the beer festival, there is free transport from the station to the Racecourse to attend the Beer Festival – and back again. So you can save the 20 minute walk each way, and spend that extra time at the festival.

    • Shakespeare_1368704290

    • May 16, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Thanks for the mention of our Beer & Cider Festival !
    We now have 56 Beers listed on our website at

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    Shakespeare CAMRA