The summer beer festival has been held at a number of locations in Cambridge. It began at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in 1974 and remained there until 1982. After skipping a year in 1983, it moved between the Guildhall and Midsummer Common before returning to the Corn Exchange in 1988 (the 14th festival). In 1992, it moved to the Cambridge City Football Club ground just off Milton Road where it became an outside festival in huge marquees. During its residency at the football ground time it grew (helped by not being limited by a fixed building) and settled into its now established time of year at the end of May (having previously been held in August).
In 2001 (the 28th festival) it moved to Jesus Green where it has remained ever since. Since moving to Jesus Green it has grown significantly. The location attracts a lot more passing trade than the football ground. The festival is now the second largest in country in terms of visitors (behind the Great British Beer Festival). In 2006 it had over 170 real ales, 50 ciders and perries as well as a large range of foreign beers and country wines. 2007 was another record-breaking year, with 30,384 visitors, who drank 494 kilderkins (about 70,000 pints) of beer and 194 tubs (about 7,700 pints) of cider and perry. The 39th festival in 2012 set another new record, with around 41,000 visitors drinking around 560 kilderkins (80,000 pints) of beer and 330 tubs (13,000 pints) of cider. The 43rd festival in 2016 was also a record year with around 41,000 visitors drinking 86,000 pints of beer, 13,000 pints of cider, 9,300 pints of foreign beer and 1,600 bottles of wine and mead.
The beer festival is also famous for its cheese stall which, unlike many food stalls at beer festivals, is run by the CAMRA branch themselves. The stall sells a wide range of traditional cheeses and breads as well as olives, pickled eggs, pork pies, scotch eggs, etc. One tonne of cheese was sold during the 2016 festival.
The Licensee for all the events up until 2011 has been David Short, Landlord of The Queens Head in Newton, Cambridgeshire. Since 2011 the festival organiser has taken on the role. The organisers and staff are all unpaid volunteers. As a thank you for their effort they receive lunch and dinner (when working), together with free or discounted beer.
Each year the festival gives a charity the opportunity to raise funds during the event. In 2018, Stars, who provide specialist bereavement support and counselling for young people in Cambridgeshire, raised over £18,500.