Festival How-To

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 or pint glass which will have clear markings for the half- and third- and full 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 Program which contains tasting notes for the beer, cider and perry at the festival, and some beer tokens - more on these later!

To the Festival

Once you leave the entrance desk you'll be directed down another flight of stairs. On this level we will have our caterers. 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.

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. The main bar is at the bottom of the stairs which is where our real ales are served from. There will be signs behind the bars showing which beer is where. The beers will also be numbered both in the program and behind the bars.

Along the wall under the stairs will be a second bar. On here there will be a Membership stand should you wish to sign up as a CAMRA member. There may also be some CAMRA goods and books to purchase as well as extra beer tokens. Along here you will also 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.

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 (or up to 6.9% and over 7.0% for cider and perry).

There will be at least 1 location in the main festival hall 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.