Seen as it’s holiday season and we’re all drinking ourselves into degenerate states, it’s time to pretend that beer is a cultural activity. Not just a choice for alcoholics.
Beer can define. Breweries symbolize the approach to engineering and originality. Different sized beer glasses epitomize a commitment to revelry. And destinations with great beer are always going to be fun.
Visiting any of the following destinations isn’t about savoring a few beers. It’s about drinking the local concoctions all day, and then all night. These are places of amazingly diverse beers, a culture of drinking from 10am, and the hotel concierge carrying you into bed. It’s time to indulge in the greatest destinations for beer lovers.
1) Bruges, Belgium
Belgium offers the holy grail of beer production, the tiny nation responsible for over 1000 different varieties. If a bar doesn’t stock more than 50 choices then it doesn’t get any customers. Go to Bruges and ask for a “beer” and you’ll get laughed at. You need to browse the menus and order a specific beer; repeat the process until you’ve tried 25 of them and you fall off the chair. Bruges adds an extra dose of drunken brilliance with its Beer Wall. All 1000+ of the country’s beers are on display with their individual glasses, arguably the finest sight in the history of the world.
2) Prague, Czech Republic
Before continuing it’s time to test your beer knowledge. Does Budweiser come from the States or from the Czech Republic? If you proudly declared the USA then buy yourself a six pack of commercialized junk and stop reading. Budweiser comes from Prague, the Czech Republic, and it’s far more flavorsome than the brand that advertises during the Super Bowl. It’s just one of dozens of great breweries in Prague, the enjoyment intensified by the locals’ fervent desire to be drunk at all times of the day.
African beer is generally appalling. Take Malawi, a country that sold 50 year exclusive brewing rights to Carlsberg, the tasteless Danish brand. Namibia bucks the trend by taking lessons from its colonial rulers, the Germans. There’s not huge choice but it’s clean, crisp, refreshing, and easy to swallow all day long. After traveling through the African continent, beer lovers will find themselves magnetically attracted to this desert nation. Windhoek is the only option that’s enjoyed exported fame, but there’s a handful of good options.
4) Munich, Germany
How did we make it to number four without mentioning Oktoberfest in Munich? The world’s biggest beer festival takes place in Munich, situated in a Bavarian corner of Germany. The beer comes in 1liter glasses, usually served by local women with boobs spilling out of their lederhosen. Oktoberfest is absolute carnage and not for the feint-hearted. But travel here at other times and you’ll still get the massive beers and local celebration of drunkenness.
5) Sydney, Australia
Australian beer used to be unappealing and predictable. Just 15 years ago the whole country was limited to around 10 stock beers. But there’s been a craft beer explosion, microbreweries popping up everywhere and teaching the locals that there’s more to beer than a 250ml 2.5% stubbie. Sydney leads the charge into originality and its funky bars compete in selling the latest local concoctions. Nights can get pretty raucous, as Random Vacay found out when it drunkenly met seven trannies.
6) Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok does not have great beer. The local choices are eminently drinkable of course, just nothing spectacular. However, Bangkok has Chang beer. Around the world, Chang comes at a standard 5% alcohol content. But in Bangkok, nobody has any idea of the true alcohol content. Drink two and you might be on the floor. Drink ten and you could be standing. Estimates vary from 6 – 12% when it comes on draught, and this unpredictability makes every night in Bangkok ridiculously entertaining.
7) Portland, USA
Beer lovers often wonder why Budweiser is so popular in the States. This a nation of over 2000 breweries and who knows how many individual beers. Leading the craft brewery revolution is Portland, home to more breweries than any other city in the world. Travel here and you’re not allowed to leave until you’ve tried something from each of the 53. Of course, a multitude of breweries means plenty of beer festivals throughout the year.
8) Ghent, Belgium
Belgium’s charming historic towns could make up half a dozen places on the list. We’ve stuck to just two. While Bruges grabs the tourists, Ghent has a wonderfully local feel, the cafe terraces full of drunken revelry on balmy summer evenings. We’ve already celebrated the diversity of Belgium beer, so let’s consider the potency. 7% alcohol is considered weak. Many Belgium beers are over 10% so a few daytime tipples and you’re going to be wobbling. And Ghent is even more enchanting with the beer goggles on.
9) London, England
England is home to the English pub. You know, the place with wooden bars, terrible carpets, and old men face-planting a pint of stout. Central to the classic English pub is having hand pulled ale, each pub choosing a barrel from its local brewery. You could experience this anywhere in the country, but London takes our vote for its sheer abundance of choice. Do a pub crawl in London districts like Camden or Soho and you can visit 15-20 pubs that are within easy stumbling distance.
9) Stuttgart, Germany
Many German towns have annual beer festivals although tourists seem to unanimously stick to Oktoberfest in Munich. Stuttgart is famed for its dark beers, and its 16 day beer festival is more relaxed and laid-back than Munich’s. You still get the lederhosen and liter sized steins, but there’s less chance of stepping in somebody’s puke or sleeping beside a kebab van. The beer is probably better as well.
10) Mexico City, Mexico
The whole world knows of Corona, the Mexican beer export that ignites many drunken debates. Why does it come with a slice of lime??? But Mexicans don’t drink Corona, or Sol for that matter. It’s way down the list when it comes to refreshing local beers. Modelo and Pacifico have also been exported around the world. That’s definitely an improvement. Then in Mexico City you should be drinking something like Tecate or the wonderfully named Bohemia Obscura.
11) Edinburgh, Scotland
Scotland is famed for whiskey but its beer has a long and distinguished history. As its usually cold and wet here, the beer comes with a strong kick and gets you inebriated before midday. Which is the only way to really see Edinburgh like a local. Expect a few drunken street fights, quaffing deep fried junk food for energy, and admiring the regal architecture in a confusing haze.
12) Boston, USA
Samuel Adams and the Boston Beer Company hail from Boston, names that should entice any drinker who turns up their nose at Heineken. Brewery tours are an obvious attraction and one company now offers multi-day tours that take in almost a dozen big and small breweries. But it’s not all about merely tasting. Boston consumes more beer per capita than any other US city, so you’ll be nailing the craft beers all night long.
13) Dublin, Ireland
The Irish like a drink more than pretty much anyone, their commitment to drunkenness so widespread that Irish pubs can be found in Mongolia, Paraguay, Iceland, and Turkmenistan. Visit Dublin and you’ll be on the Guinness. Don’t say you don’t like it. You haven’t tried Guinness until you’ve sipped it from a Dublin pub, or even better, direct from the Guinness Brewery. Expect your senses to be elevated by the experience.
14) Budapest, Hungary
This list could have culminated in any number of Eastern European capitals. Worthy runners up were Vilnius, Bucharest, Warsaw, and Skopje. Like Budapest, they all offer insanely cheap beer, huge glasses, bars on every street, and locals prone to mischief. Budapest gets the vote for its size. It would take weeks to explore the distinct neighborhoods and for every bar full of tourists, there’s 20 offering the local experience.