There is an old saying that goes “for every ill, mescal, and for every good as well,” but we prefer to keep our drinking times good – at least until the morning. That’s why over the last several decades festivals celebrating the joy of imbibing and the delicious elixirs that make us feel so darn joyful have been popping up around the world.
From San Francisco to China to London and Argentina, the ancient practice of hitting the sauce hard enough to raise our spirits is, now, truly reaching its height. Craft beer has never been more popular, home distilleries are opening in all sorts of locations, and some U.S. states have even legalized moonshine.
But what makes one drinking festival better than the next? Is it the price? The kind of alcohol being served? The location? Turns out, it’s a mix of a lot of different aspects – one being, how easy it is to hit the hay after such a laborious day, because we would rather be under the covers when we are three sheets to the wind than trying to figure out who will give us a ride home.
Whether it is due to their exotic locals, their sheer size, or just the can’t pass up history, these 12 drinking festivals are sure to help you reach that point of intoxicated nirvana that’ll make you want to “meditate” on the festivities you’ve enjoyed, because what’s better to celebrate than celebrating itself? These are our 12 favorite drinking festivals:
Is there a better place to start than the largest beer festival in the United States? Bolstered by its high altitude locale, the Denver-based Great American Beer Festival occurs every year for three days between mid-September and early-October. Attendees can enjoy over 3,500 different beers over a four-and-a-half-hour period. Tickets cost $80, but tickets for designated drivers are only $25, proving that the festival really cares about your comfort level when passing out. Existing in the format of a public tasting and a private competition, the Great American Beer Festival makes it easy for everyone to enjoy the best of the craft beer culture.
Less a wine festival than a full-on vino wet t-shirt contest, the annual Haro Wine Battle takes place in La Rioja, Spain on the 29th of June every year. At 7 a.m., thousands of locals and tourists dressed in white attire and red scarves grab as many liquid-carrying vessels filled with red wine as they can carry and head up a windy trail to the Cliffs of Bionio, where a mass is held. After that, it’s every man, woman and child for themselves, as everyone turns on one another covering them from head to toe in sticky purple alcohol juice. Following the battle, everyone returns to town to enjoy bullfights.
Located in Bad Durkheim, Germany in the Rhineland-Palatinate wine region, Wurstmarkt, which literally translates to “the sausage market,” is the world’s largest wine festival. Over 600,000 people visit the festival each year, which was first held in 1417. The festival in its current form officially began in 1913. It takes place on the second and third weekend of September in the middle of town next to the Dürkheimer Riesenfass, which is the largest wine cask in the world. With rides and food stalls located nearby, it is the ideal place for any wine lover to go and be merry.
The most famous drinking festival in the world occurs in Munich, Germany from the last weeks of September through the first week of October. Lasting 16 days, the beer-swilling festival takes place at the fairgrounds where over a dozen tents pour pints, pitchers, and steins full of the golden-colored beverage we all love. The festival has been occurring for over two centuries, and actually began a wedding celebration in 1810 for the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The festival attracts around 6 million people each year, and the most storied of all German beers are on tap for everyone to try.
Miami is already known for its wild parties, but come mid-April, the Magic City turns into a rum-lover’s paradise. This is as much an industry event as it is for consumers, so expect a variety of competitions and seminars to coincide with the three separate grand tasting events. The festival’s catch phrase “rum is fun” is clearly on display throughout, with over 100 rums available to attendees. The festival takes place at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center, and has partnered with Uber to provide free rides to the event. To make matters even more fun, the festival coincides with Miami Cocktail Week and festival-goers can attend a variety of VIP cocktail parties around town.
Organized by the Campaign for Real Ale, the Great British Beer Festival allows visitors to ingest over 900 different types of beers, ales, ciders, and perries, from over 350 different British breweries. Food is available throughout the venue, and entertainment is provided – if the thousands of drunk people isn’t enough. A variety of pub games including Skittles, Shut the Box, and Bobbing for Apples are available for those looking for even more excitement. Located at Olympia London convention center since 2012, the event is within a mile of almost 10 different Underground stations. Over 60,000 people attend the event yearly, so you certainly won’t be the only one falling asleep on The Tube.
Every Spring, thousands of whisky lovers travel to Speyside, Scotland to taste the finest single malt Scotches the area has to offer. Not taking place at a single hall, tavern or convention center, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival occurs throughout the region with a variety of distilleries, bars, castles, and village halls playing host to over 400 different events. From distillery tours, tastings, and talks, to auctions, outdoor adventures, and formal dinners, there are a variety of different ways to enjoy this one-of-a-kind festival. The festival lasts five glorious whisky-filled days, and there is no singular festival ticket. Rather, individuals can choose whichever events interest them and buy passes for those events.
Starting around the second week of August every year, Qingdao, China plays host to Asia’s largest beer festival. Lasting several weeks, Qingdao International Beer Festival is full of “beautiful women performing on stage,” music, and beers from across Europe and Asia. It is the premiere festival to taste Chinese beer and offers up a festival environment unlike any other. The festival has been going on for a quarter decade now, and continues to grow with each passing year. There are opening and closing ceremonies as well as western and Chinese food available to keep one coming back for more.
In western Switzerland sits a small town named Boveresse. For years this village near the border of France has been famous for wormwood cultivation. Every June, the town is packed with tourists who are looking to enjoy the annual absinthe festival. There are tastings, craft booths, and traditional Swiss food. The green fairy is the main attraction for everyone around and visitors can even meet some of the distillers of the famed hallucinogenic alcohol. There is nothing quite like enjoying absinthe in its natural habitat, high atop the Alps. Each year a new spoon and poster are created for the occasion, so you’ll have something to remember the trip by even if you don’t.
Not a traditional festival, but certainly a great excuse to get sloshed while wandering the streets of Britain’s capital during London Cocktail Week which occurs every year in early October. The cocktail tours are the most anticipated part of the week-long endeavor, and individuals who purchase wristbands can receive some of the finest in the world for only £5. Wristbands are only £10 and provide anyone wearing one with the best deals in London. Hundreds of bars and restaurants across the city support the event, and for an entire week, London is able to forget about the gloomy winter to come.
The San Francisco Craft Spirits Festival attracts drink makers the world over to taste the finest spirits from around the globe. Over 150 top-of-the-line spirits are available for visitors to smell, swirl, and savor. The festival occurs in mid-August every year for two days, and all of the top industry professionals pay a visit. Anyone who is remotely interested in the finest spirits the world has to offer should make their way to The Golden Gate City. Whether you are into whisky, vodka, gin, brandy, or any other spirit, this should be on any drink lover’s bucket list.
Taking place in Mendoza City in the Mendoza Province of Argentina, the annual Grape Harvest Festival is one of the most important tourist events in the region. The festival features hundreds of dancers and performers, and there is even a giant fireworks display. Over 20,000 visitors attend the festivities, where a massive opening display leads to the choosing of the Grape Harvest Queen. The festival begins on the last Sunday of February every year with six days worth of events and, of course, large amounts of wine consumption. The festival has a religious theme and begins with the blessing of the fruits.