Munich’s Oktoberfest has come and gone, but that’s no reason for beer lovers to sit home and drown their sorrows in a frosty mug. The world is full of destinations where the natives know – and love – their beer, and where you can sample some local brew all year long. We sipped our way around the world and came up with ten great destinations for beer lovers – how about a visit to a German city that’s home to over a dozen beer gardens? Or perhaps a visit to the world’s oldest brewpub is more your pint of ale? And we can all probably agree that a city in Asia where beer is sold in vending machines is definitely worth a visit. So no matter how you say “cheers” – whether Prost! Na zdraví! Kampai! Salúd! – our list will help you raise a glass around the globe.
Cozy, neighborhood watering holes serving beer (or pils as the locals call it), the Dutch way – with exactly two fingers' worth of foam on top – aren’t hard to find in this city. Heineken, Grolsch, and Amstel are three of the best-known native brews, but a sampling of artisanal blends and witte (wheat) beers from neighboring Belgium are also on the menu at Amsterdam’s cozy “brown” bars, so called for their antiquated, nicotine-stained walls. If your interest in hops goes beyond consumption, take a tour of the Heineken Experience, where tastings are encouraged.
Is there any place on earth better to sip Berliner Weise (beer with woodruff or raspberry juice) than in its city of origin? The city boasts more then 20 beer gardens where you can enjoy this local favorite – along with hundreds of other frothy ales. Though the city is a haven for beer lovers all year round, August in particular stands out, when the first week of the month is devoted to Bierfestival, and the city center turns into a 1.2 mile-long beer garden hosting 240 breweries from 80 countries, representing 1,750 different brands of beer.
3. BruggeSlightly smaller than the Belgian capital of Brussels, Brugge (also known as Bruges) is renowned for its fine lace, Godiva chocolate – and beer. Indeed, this tiny city is, amazingly enough, a prime place to sample over 450 unique varieties of Belgian brew, each served in its own specialized glass. You’ll find a preserved pub, Café Vlissinghe (www.cafevlissinghe.be), that dates back to 1515, breweries that still use antiquated brewing techniques, and even museums, like De Gouden Boom Brewery Museum, where beer has been produced since 1455.
Set between two beer-bustling locales – Montreal to the north, and Boston to the southeast – Burlington, Vermont is a university town with one of the best brew cultures in New England. Home to the quirky micro-brewery Magic Hat, visitors can do as the locals do and sample homegrown brews such as #9, Fat Angel, and Blind Faith IPA to name a few. Church Street, a four-block pedestrian-only zone buzzes with vibrant bars with top-notch beer on tap, including Vermont brewed Otter Creek and the Long Trail beer collection, whose specialty beers change seasonally.
No beer list of any kind would be complete without a nod to the Irish and its capital city of Dublin, where pub culture thrives and the favorite local pastime is imbibing in age-old taverns where luminaries like James Joyce perhaps once did. Dubliners and visitors alike can’t resist the smooth creamy flavor and dark body of Guinness, the city’s finest, home-brewed stout. The Guinness Storehouse, where visitors can watch the brewing process and learn to pour themselves the perfect pint, and The Porterhouse, Dublin’s first brew pub and a must on any pub crawl, are two of the city’s top draws.
Una cerveza por favor! These words will have you sipping Mexico’s finest in two shakes of a maraca. Corona, the signature Mexican brew, is produced in Mexico City, at Grupo Modelo, the country’s largest brewing company. While brewpubs are rare in the capital, fun taverns, mariachi clubs, and bars abound where you can taste your share of local beers. Our favorite brands include Negra Modelo, a chocolaty-smooth dark lager (also produced by Grupo Modelo), Bohemia, a pilsner-style lager with a semi-dry flavor, and Dos XX, a golden lager-style beer.
There’s more to this Québec province then Labatt and Molson. Montreal, in particular, boasts several brewpubs, like Le Cheval Blanc, Dieu du Ciel, and Sergent Recruteur that serve up first-rate micro-brewed beer in flavors that typically change with the season. Rather than be classified as lager, ale, and the like, beer here is commonly differentiated by color – blonde, rousse (red), ambrée (amber), and noir (dark) – and are ordered as such at the bar. If you happen to be in town in early June, don’t miss the annual Mondial de la Bière beer festival.
In Portland, there are plenty of drafts to go around. Indeed, with 28 breweries based here – more per capital than any other city in the country – this Pacific Northwest city clearly boasts the motherload of American microbrews. One of the city’s oldest and largest breweries, Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, produces over 200,000 barrels a year, including a top-selling German-style Hefeweizen; drop by on a weekend for free tours and tastings. Other popular draws here include Gasthaus, where hard-to-find brews like Snowplow Stout and Cherry Bomb are on tap, and BridgePort, Portland’s oldest microbrewery.
Beer lovers love Prague for two main reasons – the first being the high quality of the beer brewed here, the second being its price – which is very inexpensive by North American standards. The city is home to U Fleku, the world's oldest brewpub, and one of Europe's most famous beer halls. It’s also home to the original (and many would say better) Budweiser, known locally as Budvar. Traditionally, beer halls only poured one brand, but have recently begun pouring two or three, so you won’t have to pub crawl to sample Prague’s best suds. For serious enthusiasts, Plzen, home of the world’s first beer museum and the original Pilsner, is just 50 miles away.
Think the Japanese sit around sipping sake all day? Think again. Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink here – so popular, in fact, that you can purchase it from vending machines on the street. The town of Sapporo, in northern Japan, is a name beer lovers are familiar with, thanks to the golden beverage that shares the town’s namesake and which usually appears in a silver tall-boy. Since Sapporo beer is the city’s most popular export, it makes sense that it has its own museum – the only one of its kind in Japan. Next door, a beer garden with a daily barbeque creates the perfect setting for kicking back with cold draft beer.