The history of the Great British Beer Festival Winter

The Great British Beer Festival Winter, often known as GBBFW or GBBF Winter, is a yearly event organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). The purpose is simple – to showcase the best real ales available in the UK. Initially with an emphasis on winter beers, such as stouts and porters, as demand increased for more choice, in 2017 it was decided to change the original name (National Winter Ale Festival) to reflect the move away from winter ales and to showcase beers from the whole spectrum of seasons, flavours and styles.

The festival kicks off with the judging and announcement of the Champion Winter Beer of Britain awards, which are judged in categories of old ales and strong miles, barley wines, porters and stouts. Nominated beers are grouped into categories and go through several rounds of blind tasting at the festival and the category winners are then re-judged to determine the supreme champion.
The festival is often held in January or February of each year, however there were two festivals in 1997 at each end of the year. The first one gave the Champion Winter Beer of Britain award for 1996/7 and the second for 1997/8, and there was subsequently no festival in 1998.

While it’s sister festival, the Great British Beer Festival, has been run exclusively in London since 1991, the winter festival moves between host cities allocated on a three year cycle. CAMRA branches from across the United Kingdom have an opportunity to bid for the event. The venue locations include:

• 1997: Old Fruit Market, Glasgow
• 1999-2002: Upper Campfield Market, Manchester
• 2003-2004: Old Town Hall, Burton-on-Trent
• 2005-2009: New Century Hall, Manchester
• 2010-2011: The Venue, Manchester
• 2013: Sheridan Suite, Manchester
• 2014-2016: The Roundhouse, Derby
• 2017-2019: The Halls, Norwich

The 2016 festival was held in Derby at the Roundhouse and drew 13,832 attendees. Derby chose to include the festival as part of its already existing winter festival and continues to host a winter festival each year. In 2017 the festival moved to Norwich. Norwich took the decision to hold the festival separately to its annual Norwich Beer Festival, held in October, so it was introduced as a new festival to Norwich. In the first year it attracted 7,800 attendees and over 10,000 in the second year, which is commendable for a new festival to the area.

In 2019 the Great British Beer Festival Winter will be hosted for the last time in The Halls in Norwich, a medieval halls complex in Norwich consisting of St Andrews Hall and Blackfriars Hall.
In 2017 Norwich & Norfolk CAMRA first introduced a Fringe Festival, the first of its kind for any CAMRA beer festival. The Fringe was a success so it was decided to extend it from just a few days to the whole of February in 2018. In 2019 The Fringe will return from 1-28 February 2019, with a series of Fringe events at local pubs across the city centre, extending the festivities and providing attendees with the opportunity to meet local brewers, participate in quiz nights and tasting sessions.

To book your tickets for this years’ event, please select the link

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