The world of beer is nearly as vast and as variegated as the world itself — good news for those who plan their travels around tasty booze and unique brew culture. There are so many destinations to choose from, and there are certainly no definitive answers when it comes to the best places to go. While some prefer cities with a wide selection of craft beers, others might prize a destination for its historic beer halls or the idiosyncrasies of its beer drinking traditions. That said, here is a list of cities that deserve special attention — some of the world’s best destinations for beer lovers.
It’s difficult to dispute Munich’s claim as the best beer city in the world. More than 125 million (!) gallons of beer are consumed annually in this city, and there are those who say that Munichers have beer in their veins instead of blood. Munich is also home to Oktoberfest, the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall and the 11th-century Weihenstephan (the world’s oldest brewery). Undoubtedly the best time to visit Munich is during earth’s greatest beer festival, Oktoberfest, but any time is a great time to gulp down a classic Munich Helles pale lager from one of the city’s six main breweries, or to have a few pints in a traditional beer garden.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Amsterdam is the birthplace of a number of beers that are famous around the globe, including Amstel, Heineken and Grolsh. Besides its most renowned brews, the pubs in Amsterdam serve up a wealth of styles and flavors, and in many of the city’s cozy ‘brown bars’ you’ll also find a fine sampling of artisanal blends and delicious wheat beers from Belgium. If your interested in the brewing process, consider a tour of the Heineken Experience, and if you’re looking to buy some rare brews to bring back home, the Cracked Kettle stocks more than 500 types of beer and can ship internationally. Café Gollem just across the road serves nearly 200 beers in a congenial atmosphere.
Belgium is famous around the world for its unique beer specialties, a number of which use spontaneous fermentation by bacteria and wild yeasts and are brewed by Trappist monks. There is no better place to enjoy the country’s famed beers than its capital city, Brussels, the center of Belgium’s enormous beer industry. Here the alcohol content is dizzying and the varieties are plentiful. For an authentic Brussels experience, head to local watering holes like the Puppet Cellar at Poechenellekelder, the historic Mort Subite or Delirium, which serves more than 2,000 different beer varieties.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City brews the world’s sixth best-selling beer, Corona, as well as a number of brews that are famous around the world, including Dos Equis, Tecate, Corona, Modela Especial, Pacifico, Sol and more. Large companies dominate the Mexico City beer scene, but a number of microbreweries have been springing up as of late, including Cervecería Primus, Cervecería Calavera, Guadalajara’s Cerveceria Minerva and Mexicali’s Cucapá. Although the breweries are scattered across the country, the bars and shops of Mexico City are the best place to track down many of the country’s best beers. Brewpubs are rare here, but there is no shortage of taverns, mariachi clubs and bars where beer lovers can drink their fill and party all night long.
Portland is a beer lover’s paradise. Often referred to as ‘Beervana’, Portland boasts a impressive 31 breweries, which is more per capita than any other city in the world. The city’s well-known craft breweries include Widmer Brothers, Pyramid, Hair of the Dog, Rogue Ales and Deschutes Brewery. It is the perfect place for a beer holiday. Start out with a pint or two at homegrown breweries and taverns like Widmer Gasthaus, the New Old Lompoc and Bridgeport, then head over to Gasthaus, where rare brews like Snowplow Stout and Cherry Bomb are on tap. Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, one of Portland’s oldest and largest breweries, produces over 200,000 barrels a year and has free tours and tastings on weekends. For an excellent booze tour, consider Portland’s Brew Bus Tour, which takes you to 20 different establishments.
World-renowned as the birthplace of the country’s most famous export, Guinness, pub culture is quite simply a way of life in Ireland’s capitol city, and boozing well into the night is a favorite pastime for Dubliners of all ages. There’s no shortage of bars to choose from, but no beer pilgrimage to Dublin would be complete without at least one tour of the Guinness Storehouse, where visitors can witness the brewing process first-hand, learn to pour themselves the perfect pint and round off their education with a free pint in the Gravity Bar. Another must in Dublin is a visit to the Porterhouse, where you can sample its nine exclusive beers. All around Dublin local brews are served at hundreds of cozy pubs, including Dawson’s Lounge, the Stag’s Head and Solas.
Cologne is yet another Germany town with a unique beer tradition. The city’s specialty is Kölsch, a pale, light ale that can only legally be brewed in Cologne. This signature brew is served in traditional 200ml cylindrical glasses called Stangen, which waiters will bring endlessly until you place a coaster atop your glass to signifying your drinking has come to an end. Kölsch is best enjoyed in a ‘Brauhaus’, a traditional German pub where the stuff is brewed. Another traditional Cologne specialty is Rauchbier (smoke beer), which uses malt that has been dried over beechwood fires, giving it a deep smoky flavor.
When it comes to beer cities in North America, Montreal can hold its own. The city boasts several excellent brewpubs, including Le Cheval Blanc and Dieu du Ciel, which serve up delicious microbrewed beer, with new flavors each season. Le Cheval Blanc is the city’s oldest brewpub, with Canadian specialties such as maple and cranberry ale. The best time for beer lovers in Montreal is during the annual Mondial de la Bière beer festival in June.
Prague, Czech Republic
Simply put, Prague has some of the best and cheapest beer in the world (the average price for a half liter is around $1.25). In addition, Czechs consume more beer than almost any other people on the planet (more than 41 gallons per person per year), are believed to have invented pilsner and lay claim to the original (and far tastier) Budweiser, known as ‘Budvar’. Prague is also home to U Fleku, the world’s oldest brewpub and one of the planet’s most famous beer halls, but there are dozens of other historic beer halls to choose from, including Bredovsky Dvur and U Vejvodu.
As the widely-acknowledged Beer Capital of the United States, it shouldn’t be too surprising the Milwaukee’s nickname is the ‘Brew City’, or that its baseball team is named ‘The Brewers’ and play at Miller Park. Formerly the nation’s top beer-producing city and home to four of the world’s largest breweries — Schlitz, Pabst, Miller and Blatz, Milwaukee is now developing a sophisticated craft-beer scene. You can still visit the MillerCoors mega-brewery, which features a free walking tour with a pint at the end, but the city is also home to a number of smaller breweries, such as Sprecher, Lakefront and Leinekugles. Some of the city’s finest establishments include the Milwaukee Alehouse, Roman’s Pub and the Sugar Maple, which serves a fine selection of 60-plus U.S. craft beers. Palm Tavern, which Draft Magazine named as one of America’s best bars for its 250-some artisan beers, is certainly worth a visit as well.
With its steep and cobbled streets, Edinburgh may not be the best place to wander around drunk, but at least you’ll be able to stop into plenty of bars for a rest, as Edinburgh boasts one of the highest concentration of pubs in Europe. Many think of scotch when they think of Scotland, but the Scots have been brewing beer for more than 5,000 years, and during the 18th and 19th centuries brewing was one of the Edinbugh’s main industries. Although the number of breweries has declined — from 40 in the 1960s to just 6 today — beer culture still stands strong in Edinbugh. You’ll have to search for independent pubs to find good tap and bottle list, but fortunately there are loads of them. Definitely check out the Brauhaus and their amazing bottle list (400+), the Halfway House, the historic Oxford Bar and the BrewDog’s Pub, or try to plan your visit during the annual Scottish Real Ale Festival or the Edinburgh Independent Beer Festival.
Boston’s history rich of rebellion and beer drinking is exemplified by its Samuel Adams beer, one of the country’s first craft brews, named after the legendary American revolutionary and malt producer Samuel Adams. You can still visit bars that were around during America’s revolutionary era, like the historic Green Dragon and the Warren Tavern, the oldest tavern in the state, or head over to the Samuel Adams brewery in Beantown, where you can take a $2 tour and sample malts and seasonal suds. The Harpoon Brewery also has tastings and tours, but for the best Boston beer experience come during the annual Harpoon Octoberfest.