Six of the best UK beer festivals for 2022
From a Cumbrian weekender in the shadow of a mountain to a Mancunian booze up in Victorian baths, here’s our pick of the country’s best beer festivals this summer.
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Beer festivals combine elements such as camping, live music and DJs, good food and cocktails alongside stunning settings and the very best of an eclectic, exciting and independent British brewing scene.
Published 31 May 2022, 15:00 BST
Anyone fancy a pint? Well, having been curtailed by the pandemic for a couple of years, British beer festivals are back, and potentially better than ever before. Striving to move beyond the cliched image of bellies, beards, sandals and socks in village halls, contemporary festival organisers have realised that good beer alone isn’t always enough — you need more of the ingredients that make a great night out. So, increasingly, they’ve combined elements such as camping, live music and DJs, good food and cocktails alongside stunning settings and the very best of an eclectic, exciting and independent British brewing scene. Here’s our pick of the bunch.
Fyne Ales, Cairndow, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, 3-5 June
Drink in the ridiculously picturesque views while enjoying a pint at this family-friendly, three-day party. Every year, in the sizeable shadow of the Glen Fyne valley, the fine folk at Fyne Ales curate an awesome collection of beers from independent breweries across Britain and beyond (including Deya Brewing Company, Cloudwater Brew Co and North Brewing Co). There’s camping, activities for the kids, talks, Fyne Ales brewery tours, Meet The Brewer sessions and some fantastic festival food — including local oysters (perfect with porter), venison, hog roasts and plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. There’s dancing too, with loads of live bands, live karaoke and, this year, some old-school hip hop played on banjos. The brewery even lays on its own buses to get you from Glasgow.
2. Keswick Beer Festival
Keswick, Cumbria. 3-4 June
Not content with its very own, world-famous Derwent Pencil Museum, the beautiful Cumbrian town of Keswick is also home to a cracking traditional cask ale festival. In the heart of the Lake District, the two-day ‘party on the pitch’ takes place on the green grass of the local rugby club, against a stunning backdrop of fells and mountains. Overlooked by Skiddaw, the fourth-highest peak in England, there’s live music, festival food and a vast beer line-up, largely dedicated to local hand-pulled heroes from Cumbria’s thriving brewery scene. Don’t leave without trying Coniston Bluebird — a beautifully balanced beer named after the speedboat that fatally crashed on the Lake District’s Coniston Water back in 1967.
3. Bigfoot Festival
Claydon Estate, Buckinghamshire. 17-19 June
For years, music festivals seldom had decent beers, and beer festivals rarely had great music (unless, of course, you like morris dancing). Not anymore. This three-dayer, held on a bucolic, 170-acre site, does both brilliantly. Amid scenic parkland, complete with lakes and woods, you’ll discover brewery taps from an esteemed list of producers, including Northern Monk, Signature Brew, Siren and The Wild Beer Co. This year, Khruangbin, Caribou and the Happy Mondays are headlining the main stage alongside an impressive array of up-and-coming acts, while the phenomenal food offering focuses on fire pit cooking. Throw in some fine wines and quality cocktails and you may well need to chill out courtesy of the Wellness programme, which includes yoga by the lake. There are loads of cool kids’ activities too.
4. London Craft Beer Festival
Tobacco Dock, Wapping, east London, 12-13 August
Centuries ago, when Britain ran the global beer show, London’s breweries exported their indigenous styles all over the world. Ships laden with barrels of porter, stout and India pale ale would set sail a couple of miles upriver from Tobacco Dock — the urban setting for a cracking craft beer festival, now in its 10th year. The ‘all-in’ ticket price may seem a little spicy at £180 but the sessions here are designed to broaden one’s beer horizons. Rather than simply nursing a few pints, you’re given a tasting glass to walk around with and sample unlimited beers from a staggering selection of microbreweries — not just from within the M25 but from further afield in the UK too. Also, having struck a deal with the US Brewers Association in America, there’ll be brews from more than two dozen transatlantic producers, alongside cider, spirits and some top-class street food.
5. Thornbridge Peakender
Bakewell, Peak District. 19-21 August
From one of the leading pioneers of the British craft beer renaissance comes this wonderful weekend beer and music festival in the incredibly scenic Peak District. The Bakewell Showground provides the backdrop for a three-day, beer-fuelled camping and glamping celebration featuring breweries from Britain and beyond. They include Stone & Wood from Australia, California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Lost and Grounded, from Bristol, and, of course, loads of lovely brews from Thornbridge too. For craft beer connoisseurs, there are Meet the Brewer talks and tastings, but if in-depth discussion of hop varieties, mash tun circumferences and that kind of thing don’t interest you, there’s a wide selection of tasty food and some marvellous live music to be had too.
6. Indy Man Beer Con
Victoria Baths, Manchester, 29 September-2 October
While the legendary line-up of beers and breweries will be pure catnip to the craft beer geeks, it’s the spectacular setting that marks out this four-day Mancunian festival. A far cry from the usual trestle tables scattered around a cavernous hall, the Edwardian Grade II-listed Victoria Baths — a red-brick-and-terracotta masterpiece — provide a stunning backdrop for a lovely beer. Expect lavish stained glass, ornate tiling and a labyrinth of lead, cast iron and mahogany. There are loads of bespoke bars squeezed into lovely little snugs, nooks and cubby holes. But, as ever, no running or heavy petting.