Hosted and stewarded by the Campaign for Real Ale, the Great British Beer Festival1 is an annual event taking place between the first Tuesday in August and the following Saturday. The festival takes place at Earl's Court exhibition hall in London.2
This event is a beer mecca for many real ale afficionados, and also very popular with beer drinkers in general. Unlike the American counterpart, the festival is consumer focussed, reflecting CAMRA's spirit. You can buy souvenir pint glasses on the way in, in which to receive beer. Although the glass holds a pint, festival regulars will always ask for half pints of beer, as there is the opportunity to try twice as many beers.
Note: the beer is not free, so remember to get enough cash before you go in, for what you intend to drink.
Here is a list of what is on offer:
Regional beer stands
Staffed by CAMRA, there are about 12 stands each with beers from a part of the United Kingdom. At least 20 ales per stand.
Several of the larger real ale breweries have stands. These include the local London breweries, Fuller's and Young's.
Bottle conditioned beers
Bottle conditioned beers are available for drinking on-site, and as takeaway.
Beers from around the world
There are opportunities to try a Belgian lambic or a New England microbrew, or indeed many other beers from other countries.
Cider and perry
Besides T shirts etc, CAMRA have an excellent range of books on beer.
Games and competitions
Food to provide the necessary stomach lining.
Besides being used to announce the results of the beer of the year heats, there is a schedule of live music and entertainment.
Verdict: Worth taking the afternoon off work to attend. Probably a good idea to take the next day off as well!
1 I feel obliged to add this note, as a result of a /msg. Although it's great beer, and a great festival, 'Great' here is used adverbially to qualify 'British'. The title could be written 'Beer festival of Great Britain', but it does not have the same ring to it. Also, it is the festival not the beer that is Great British, as is apparent from the stand 'beers from around the world'.
2The regular venue was Olympia prior to 2006, when the festival moved to Earls's Court.