Festival How-To

As some details of the Festival are changing in 2017 some of this information may be out of date. We will update this page as soon as possible once full details are knonw.

This page aims to act as a general guide to what to expect when you visit the Durham Beer Festival. As a festival new-comer, you may find the experience a little daunting at first, so we hope you find this guide helpful. It's worth checking back just before you visit in case we have to make any last minute changes to the festival layout. If you have any feedback on this information, please email us.


When you arrive, you are on Level B of the building. At the far end is the balcony which is our designated smoking area. Go down the stairs to Level C where the main entrance to the festival is. You'll be guided to the entrance desk where you will pay your entry fee. To speed things up, we will be offering a basic entry package which will contain everything you need to get started.

One of our volunteers will put a paper wristband on you. This shows that you have paid for that day of the festival (we change the colour each day) and acts as your proof of entry to the security staff should you wish to leave the festival and return later. If you are a CAMRA member, we'll also ask you to note down your membership number.

You'll also be given a glass. This will be an oversized half pint glass which will have clear markings for the half- and third- pint levels. This helps to ensure you are given a correct measure. This glass is yours to keep, or it can be returned to us for a small refund. Inside your glass will also be a copy of the Festival Programme which contains tasting notes for the beer, cider and perry at the festival, and some beer tokens - more on these later! Pint glasses will be available for those who prefer these.

To the Festival

Once you leave the entrance desk you'll be directed down another flight of stairs; but first you'll see the catering. This is being provided by Robinson's of Wingate. The exact range of hot and cold food is not known yet, and vegetarian options will be provided. Food can only be purchased with cash - beer tokens are not accepted for food.

Down the stairs you arrive on Level D. To your left will be the Vane Tempest Ballroom. In here you will find our cider and perry bar. We also plan on having a local wine and spirit merchant, The Hop The Vine, in here selling, you guessed it, wines and spirits both to drink at the festival and (hopefully) to take home. They will also have a small selection of local bottled beers.

If you go down the next (and final) set of stairs you will be in the Margot Fonteyn Ballroom. This is where the bulk of the Festival takes place. There are 2 main bars to choose from. Bar 1 at the bottom of the stairs is where customers will find the festival's Battle of the Beers as well as local beers from County Durham and the North East. There will be signs behind the bars showing which beer is where. All our beers are organised by Region, so there are also banners showing which Region is where. The beers will also be numbered both in the programme and behind the bars. Beers 1 to 60 are along the wall at the bottom of the stairs; beers 61 upward are on the bar that runs alongside the stairs. There will also be a Membership stand should you wish to sign up as a CAMRA member at the festival and we may have a limited number of old books available for purchase. Beer from the wood will be available from a 3rd bar.

Obtaining Beer

As we mentioned above, you will receive some beer tokens as part of your entry package. To simplify things and to avoid the need for bar staff to handle cash, beer tokens are used for all purchases from the festival's beer and cider bars - one token for a half pint of all drinks up to and including 5.9% ABV, one third of a pint for drinks of 6.0% ABV or above.

There will be at least 1 location in the Margot Fonteyn Ballroom where you will be able to purchase further beer tokens which will be clearly sign posted. Tokens are valid for any day of the festival, and we are happy to offer a refund on unused tokens (but we reserve the right to decline if a token is damaged.) We change the colour of the beer tokens each year, so refunds are only available on this year's tokens!

Comfort Breaks

Toilets are available on every floor of the festival, except in the Margot Fonteyn Ballroom. If you have any problems, please let a member of Festival staff know who will contact the venue who have the responsibility for maintenance.

Smoking is not permitted inside the building, including the use of e-cigarettes. The smoking area is the balcony located on Level B.

Alternatively, if you wish to leave the venue for a while, make sure you keep your wristband on and we'll let you back in (on the same day only) without charge.