Weird drinking festivals
Words by Theodora Sutcliffe
Murcia's legendary beer-drinking competition may be no more, after 2013’s champion died soon after triumphantly downing seven litres of beer in 20 minutes. But the world has plenty of other weird drinks festivals to offer. Such as....
Batalla del Vino
You've heard of La Tomatina, the Spanish festival where folk hurl tomatoes at each other. Yet the folk of Haro, in Rioja, go several stages better with their annual wine festival. After an all-night party, they arm themselves with water pistols, sprayers and buckets, and head up into the mountains to cover each other in the boozy red stuff. Tankers around town ensure no one runs out.
28-29 June annually
Darwin Beer Can Regatta
Established as a means of recycling the endless beer can waste from one of the world's, err, thirstiest cities, the annual Beer Can Regatta in Darwin, Australia, now draws thousands of spectators to witness home-made boats, crafted from beer cans and used drinking bottles, taking to the harbour. Spectators add to the mountain of cans for next year.
5 July 2015
The Condor Eagle Festival
Ayahuasca, or yagé, is a hallucinogenic drink made from the caapi vine. Amazonian tribes have been using it in religious rituals for centuries, and William S. Burroughs brought it to Western attention in the 60s. The Condor Eagle Festival in the Brazilian Amazon is devoted entirely to this form of liquid magic, complete with attendant shamans, and runs for three trip-tastic weeks.
17 January-7 February 2015
For centuries, the Belgian town of Geraardsbergen has celebrated the feast of Krakelingen - where the local great and good drink live fish swimming in red wine, supervised by three chaps dressed as druids (insert your own Dan Brown plot here). Animal rights campaigners are steadily cutting back on the number of fish that can be drunk, but have so far failed to get the tiddlers humanely killed before they're dropped in wine.
22 February 2015
Beer Pong World Series
Who knew? Beer pong, the game where frat boys throw ping pong balls into cups of beer, and have to down the cups they miss, has its very own world championship in - but where else? - Vegas. Sadly, this year's event will be played with water "for health reasons". Bah humbug.
1-5 January 2015
Arguably Nigeria's oldest religious festival is a celebration of the river god, Osun, held in a sacred grove outside the town of Osogbo, complete with offerings to the spirits, or orishas. The preferred offering? Schnapps. And one brand is so far into the action that it's sponsoring the festival, as well as selling handy single sachets for the perfect spiritual libation.
11-24 August 2014
The Beaujolais Run
In this peculiarly British affair, participants race from Goodwood, UK, in whatever vehicle best expresses their personal eccentricities, to Burgundy. The aim? To be the first to collect the new season's Beaujolais Nouveau, an en primeur wine which is fermented for just a few days. But they have to pass the checkpoints first.
17-21 November 2014
Alcohol isn't technically the point of these Japanese naked festivals, which are held in various towns and cities, although Okayama's is the most famous. No, they're technically about rushing around in the midwinter air, wearing only a loincloth and slipper socks, and then fighting with other semi-naked men for control of the sacred sticks. Given Japan's temperatures in February, sake and beer are required lubricants (ahem).
19 February 2015
Yak Blood Drinking Festival
Twice a year, in Nepal's Mustang highlands, villagers take to the hills in pursuit of a unique goal - fresh blood, tapped from a live yak, and drunk while it's still warm. The ceremony takes about a week, and makes a welcome break from the routine diet of rice, vegetables and lentils: in theory, the warm blood brings good health.
March and October
The grape harvest festival in Mendoza, an extravaganza of wine, carnival queens, priestly blessings and stadium concerts, plus grape treading and gallons upon gallons of Malbec, is one of the biggest events in Argentina. Celebrations begin as early as January, and culminate in the first week of March, with an extra week tagged on for the real queens, culminating in a splendiferous drag competition.
2-11 March 2015