Travel the World
An Expert’s Guide to the 10 Best Beer Cities in the World
Beer. Does it really need an introduction? If you know and love it, it probably doesn’t. If you think you don’t, you need to explore the wide range of lagers and ales that are out there. Here’s a list of the world’s 10 best beer cities.
Enjoy some pints of your favourite beers
While many places are synonymous with great beer culture, there are a few cities that really warm the hearts and fill the beer bellies of true brew fans. Have a look at the 10 best beer cities in the world, and you may just discover a great beer garden or brewpub crawl beckoning you for your next vacation.
1. Munich, Germany
We begin with what may, at least by reputation and name recognition, be the beer capital of the world. What could be more beery than a German beer hall? Munich is ground zero for the annual Oktoberfest, a drinking festival that originated as a wedding party in the early 19th century. Six million attendees raise their steins over two-and-a-half weeks.
Munich is also home to Hofbräuhaus, a state-owned brewery’s beer garden, founded in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria. Expect to find plenty of Helles, a pale malty lager, and Dunkel, the darker and more traditional Munich brew. Famous brands that originate here include Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Erdinger and Löwenbräu.
2. Portland, USA
The number of breweries and brewpubs here rises and falls a bit like the barometer. It’s a tough business, especially in a city of generally 30-plus commercial breweries. At one point it was 37, and any way you count them, that’s the most per capita.
This is Beervana, where you can get the latest craft brews from Pyramid, Rogue Ales, Widmer Brothers and Hair of the Dog. Come for the Oregon Brewfest every July, one of the United States’ longest running craft brew fests, or the nation’s first organic beer festival set in June. Portland thrives on sustainability and organic food trends, and it shows in the quality of their microbreweries.
3. Dublin, Ireland
Forget St. Patrick’s Day’s green beer, and head straight to the heart of Irish suds culture in Dublin, home to the Guinness Brewery. Take the tour and learn the story of the stout that circled the world and is now served across continents in every Irish-themed bar.
But there’s more than just that creamy-headed dark ale here. Savour a Kilkenny or Caffrey’s as well. Pub-crawl to Dublin’s first brewpub, The Porterhouse, another must-drink. Dating back to 1198, the Brazen Head Pub is the town’s first public house. Mulligan’s lays claim to the best pint of Guinness. The list goes on and on.
4. Bruges, Belgium
What’s lovelier than a well-preserved medieval city with a cathedral, Venice-like canals, and fine chocolates? The same city, with over 400 different Belgian beers to be sipped at the various pubs and breweries around town. It’s a beautiful destination in itself, but for the beer lover, Bruges is the heart of Belgium and its beer culture.
Get scholarly between pints and stop in at De Gouden Boom Brewery Museum, which dates back to 1455. The history doesn’t stop there. Have a drink at Café Vlissinghe, a pub that first served back in 1515. Visit Bierbrasserie Cambrinus with its colour-coded menu for the Belgian beer newbie. Lastly, don’t forget to head just outside of town to the Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren. This is one of only seven Trappist breweries in the world. Yes, beer brewed by monks.
5. Montreal, Canada
A taste of Europe in North America, Montreal is also flush with pubs and taverns. On the banks of the St. Lawrence River, find the Molson Brewery, North America’s first, founded in 1786. The oldest brewpub in town and topping the list for a pub crawl is Le Cheval Blanc. Though the French character is apparent everywhere, ales made with cranberries or maple syrup make this an experience that could only come from Canada.
Also making a big name for itself as a Montreal masterpiece is Unibroue (technically located just south-east of the island). Be sure to try out the potent La Fin du Monde, which comes in a big champagne-sized bottle. Brace yourself for the 9 per cent alcohol with an order of poutine.
6. Prague, Czech Republic
In Prague, restaurant servers sometimes plop a beer down before even asking you what you’d like. Never mind drinking water: lager rules here. As a whole, the Czech Republic is home to a long brewing history. After all, the city of Plzen gave its name to one of the world’s most popular lager styles.
If you want to see the world’s oldest brewpub, you need to be in Prague. U Fleku‘s reputation as a first-class beer hall is built on over five centuries of continual brewing. Food is served, and there’s even a cabaret show. Look for places called a tankovna – they serve unpasteurized beer with a much richer taste. Budweiser comes from Prague as well. No, not the American stuff. The original brew to carry the name, known in Czech as Budvar. A sidetrip to Plzen and the oldest beer museum isn’t a bad idea either.
7. Milwaukee, USA
Long before the craft brewing craze swept the United States, this city of industry set on Lake Michigan was industrious about making beer. Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, Best, Blatz. The names of these German immigrants are better known today as beers. Though Miller still brews, the tradition is leaning towards microbrewing.
From tiny neighborhood pubs to the larger-scale production over at Lakefront, there’s plenty to discover. Take a booze cruise along the Milwaukee River, right through downtown, stopping at three breweries along the way. For a true taste of local culture, take the Lakefront Brewery tour on a Friday, when you can sip a few pints along the route, sing the “LaVerne and Shirley” theme, then sit down to a traditional Wisconsin Friday night fish fry, complete with live polka band.
8. Sheffield, England
England and pubs go together like fish and chips. Take your pick of any town for a good number of local places to stumble into for a pint. But pound for pound, put your money on Sheffield for a good time. Yes, age-old tradition is here, but the real attraction is the more recent revival of real ales. Take your pub crawl to the old industrial area on Kelham Island. Stop first at the Fat Cat, but don’t miss The Forum and Bungalows & Bears.
9. Berlin, Germany
Making a second stop in Germany? Beer gardens rule in Berlin—There are more than 20 of them. The most popular brew is undoubtedly Berliner Weisse, but there are also hundreds more. Pay visits to the Schultheiss and Kindl breweries. Check out either of the Brauhaus Lemke locations, a microbrew.
The best time to visit Berlin is in August: warmer weather makes for great beer garden experiences and it’s also time for Bierfestival: two kilometres worth of beer garden serving over 2,000 different beers from 300 breweries around the world. Seriously, this is comprehensive. Come on back to Germany a couple months later for Oktoberfest in Munich.
10. San Diego, USA
Though Portland has laid claim to being Beer Town USA, San Diego begs to differ. Often cited as having the best climate in America, it’s also a beer paradise in its own right. The number of breweries tops 30. Who’s got your number, Portland? Have a hoppy brew from the remarkable Stone Brewery. Pub crawl down Thirtieth Street and enjoy some specialty brews at Hamilton’s Tavern. Seriously, what are you waiting for?
Kevin Revolinski is the author of Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide, a road-trip manual to the state’s 70-plus breweries. The book includes free beer offers.