Good ale, good conversation, and good entertainment; the recipe to a successful beer festival. Here in Cumbria we like to add our own ingredient – the stunning backdrop of the Lake District fells. Each year, numerous beer festivals are held around the county, bringing together locally and nationally produced ales, often in combination with live music and other fun events.

Lake District Beer Festivals

Cheers

In Cumbria and the Lake District there are approximately 40 breweries producing real ale, from small scale micro breweries located in the back of village pubs, to large operations that export around the world. Many of the ales that are produced here have won national awards, perhaps due to the use of the fresh water that runs off our fells and into our lakes and rivers. Let’s be honest, there is no better accompaniment to the humble Cumberland Sausage than a pint of real ale.

Real ale is so popular here, that it is celebrated each year with not one, not two, not even three, but over fifteen different beer festivals each year. So far this year, we have already seen beer festivals in Great Broughton, Staveley, Loweswater, Millom, Eskdale, and Wasdale. But don’t panic, there are plenty more festivals taking place before the year ends.

Keswick Beer Festival

Keswick Beer

Date: Friday 2nd June – Saturday 3rd June, 2017

Website: www.keswickbeerfestival.co.uk

Now in its 21st year, the Keswick Beer Festival is one of the largest in the north of England, and features around 170 different ales. The festival is a joint enterprise between the Keswick Lions and Keswick Rugby Club, with profits from the festival used to support local charities and initiatives. Along with beer tastings there is live entertainment from popular local bands. Tickets sell out every year and currently there are only a few remaining, so book quickly!

 

Boot Beer Festival

Boot Beer

Date: Thursday 8th, June – Sunday 11th, 2017

Website: www.bootbeer.co.uk

A beer festival for the whole family, the Boot Beer Festival takes place across three inns in the picturesque Eskdale Valley. Best accessed via the La’al Ratty, the narrow gauge railway line that starts in Ravenglass, the festival features around 140 ales, accompanied by some excellent pub grub. There are play areas for children, and the area is known for its delightful walking routes.

 

Langdale Beer & Bikes

Langdale Beer

Date: Sunday 11th June, 2017

Website: www.langdalebeerandbikes.co.uk

A different take on a traditional beer festival, Langdale Beer & Bikes promises Beer, Banter, and Bikes. Start your day with coffee and bacon at the meeting point. Then take a guided bike ride in the Langdale Valley, one of the most stunning and remote areas of the national park, with a choice of routes available to suit a range of abilities. Finish up with a beer and a chat, provided by local brewery Bowness Bay Brewing.

 

Northern Craft Beer Festival

Northern Beer

Date: Thursday 20th July – Saturday 22nd July, 2017

Website: www.hawksheadbrewery.co.uk

Held twice a year, the Northern Craft Beer Festivals are hosted by the Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley, a small village between Windermere and Kendal. For each festival the brewery invites a handful of breweries to showcase their ales at this family friendly event that includes live music and food.

 

Ulverston Beer Festival

Ulverston Beer

Date: Thursday 31st August – Saturday 2nd September, 2017

Website: www.furness.camra.org.uk

Over 80 beers and ciders will be available at this year’s Ulverston Beer Festival, taking place in Coronation Hall in the centre of the town. There will be live music on the Saturday night, and food available to buy throughout. Combining traditional ale with the digital age, this year’s festival will feature a website that enables festival goers to track live which ales are being served.

 

Grasmere Guzzler

Grasmere Beer

Date: Friday 1st September – Sunday 3rd September, 2017

Website: www.dalelodgehotel.co.uk/grasmere-guzzler-festival

Now in its 11th year, the Grasmere Guzzler beer festival is hosted by the Dale Lodge Hotel in the idyllic village that lends the festival its name. Along with the various ales and ciders that are available, there will be a huge BBQ, and live music throughout most of the event. You can even make a weekend of it and camp at the site. Entrance to the festival is free.

 

Silloth Music & Beer Festival

Silloth Beer

Date: Thursday 7th September – Sunday 10th September, 2017

Website: www.sillothbeerfestival.co.uk

The small coastal town of Silloth in north-west Cumbria hosts a four day music and beer festival each year on its large community green. This year the festival features 60 ales and 22 ciders, and there will be live music on each day. Children can attend during the day on the Saturday and Sunday, with numerous child friendly events offered. Offers are available that combine festival entry with accommodation at a nearby holiday park.

 

Carlisle Beer Festival

Carlisle Beer

Date: Thursday 2nd November – Saturday 4th December, 2017

Website: www.solway.camra.org.uk/festival

Run by the Solway branch of CAMRA, the Carlisle Beer Festival is now in its 27th year. The festival features ales from around Cumbria and from further afield, as well as a selection of ciders offered in a dedicated cider bar. Awards are given for pub and beer of the year, and food is also available to buy.

 

Cockermouth Beer Festival

Cockermouth Beer

Date: TBC (usually held the first weekend in December)

Website: www.cockermouthbeerfestival.co.uk

Cockermouth is home to the Jennings Brewery that has been in operation for well over 100 years. The brewery uses traditional methods and Lakeland water to produce a variety of ales that are exported all over the world. The Cockermouth Beer festival celebrates the town’s association with the liquid gold, and is run by voluntary group Cockermouth Round Table, with support from Jennings. Live entertainment accompanies ales from across Cumbria.

 

The Origins of the Beer Festival

Oktoberfest Characters

Most people love a good party and mankind has been throwing them for centuries. If we didn’t have a reason to celebrate, then we would probably have to invent one. Food and wine have almost always played a key role in festivities, with the word “feast” deriving from the same Latin word that gave us “festival.” However, it was the marriage of King Ludwig I of Bavaria in 1810 in Munich to Princess Therese that saw the origin of the modern beer festival. The marriage was celebrated by a display of horseraces and parades, with trade stands for tasting beer and wine. The festival was repeated again in 1811, and thus Oktoberfest was born. As the festival grew, local brewery companies saw an opportunity and began to set up tents serving their ale. The beer tents would become beer halls, and became a key part of the annual event. Today, it’s estimated that over six million litres of beer is drunk during the festival.

In the UK, beer festivals first became popular during the 1970s. During this decade, whilst much of the population was enraptured by space hoppers, Star Wars, and the struggles of Sir Edward Heath, four men from north-west England had more pressing concerns. Alarmed at the dominance of large brewing companies who used non-traditional methods to produce on a large scale, these four ale aficionados formed the Campaign For Real Ale. CAMRA held their first national festival in 1975, whilst the first Great British Beer Festival, now the largest beer festival in the UK, was held in 1977. Since then, festivals have cropped up all over the country. Many are either supported by or led by CAMRA, whilst others are organised by individual breweries or local fundraising groups.