The past couple of decades have been great for beer all over the world. The previous decades had seen the rise of “macro beer” – mostly bland, standardized lagers, mass produced by huge multinational corporations. In a few parts of the world, people held on to their local, traditional styles of beer, but for the most part, these local styles either disappeared entirely or became difficult to find.However, starting with the resurgence of “craft beer” in the US, things have changed for the better. The US is now one of the best countries for a beer lover to live in, but countries across the world have followed in the path of the American beer scene, rediscovering their own forgotten local styles as well as styles from around the world. You can now find German pilsners, American IPAs, and British and Belgian ales anywhere from Canada to China, and in addition, you’re quite likely to find some unique, contemporary inventions that use local ingredients and techniques.
In countries that never had much of a beer tradition, you’ll find individual breweries that are on par with international standards, but in terms of the quality, consistency, variety, and innovativeness of the beer scene as a whole, these places still have some way to go. For now, the best places for beer lovers to move to are primarily in Europe and North America, but don’t be surprised if that changes in coming years. Here are the top ten places for beer lovers to move to currently.
Germany of course has to be on any beer lover’s list. In spite of the unfortunate restrictions of the Reinheitsgebot, the country has managed to produce an amazing and diverse range of beers, and there are few other places in the world where beer is so entwined with the local culture. Most people would probably say that Munich is the best city for beer lovers in Germany – after all, it’s the capital of Bavaria, is famous for its massive beer halls, and is the home of Oktoberfest. However, while Munich is indeed a fabulous place for beer, we’d vote for Bamberg.
The city reportedly has the highest per-capita consumption of beer in the world, even though Germany as a whole ranks only third. What’s more, the highest density of breweries in the world is in neighboring Aufseß, and Bamberg itself has nine breweries. And while it doesn’t have anything on the scale of Munich’s Oktoberfest, it does have the five-day Sandkerwa festival, where beer plays an important role. The city is also famous for its Rauchbier, a delicious style of smoked beer.
For many beer lovers, anywhere in Belgium is the best place in the world to live. It’s difficult to pick a single Belgian city as the best one for beer, since you’ll find a mind-boggling range even in the smaller cities and towns. Consumption of beer in the country is 84 liters per head, and the local styles include the extraordinarily delicious Trappist beers and lambics.
However, all things considered, bustling, vibrant Brussels could be the best – after all, it is home to the only annual beer festival that is held at a UNESCO World Heritage site: the Grand Place (Grote Markt) in the city’s central square. There’s also something especially satisfying about savoring great beer in the middle of a city so rich in architecture and culture. You’ll find a bar or pub on pretty much every street, and most of them will have surprisingly large selections of beer on offer, the majority of which is very drinkable. Even restaurants, where the alcohol is usually not the focus, now tend to have large selections of beer, which have been carefully curated to be paired with food.
In terms of beer, Denmark is probably most famous around the world for Carlsberg and Tuborg. Unusually, these two beers are also huge in their home country, where they dominate almost the entire market. Carlsberg in particular has been influential on beer and brewing around the world, and is at least partly responsible for making lager the most popular style of beer in Denmark.
In recent years however, microbreweries have started to mushroom around the country, and are doing quite well. In particular, beer enthusiasts will probably be familiar with Mikkeller and Evil Twin, relatively young breweries producing innovative, surprising, and delicious beers. It is now also easier to find less popular international styles such as stouts, porters, and IPAs, as well as relatively obscure local styles, such as the Hvidtø (a dark, very low-alcohol beer that is usually sold at Christmas) and Påskeøl (medium-strength lagers sold at Easter). Copenhagen is the best place in Denmark for beer, and what makes it so wonderful is the local culture, which doesn’t frown upon you sipping your beer as you walk down the street.
Ireland has a long tradition of brewing. Although most of the beer that is drunk here today is lager, statistics show that the country still very much loves its beer. Half of all the alcohol consumed in Ireland is beer, and more than a third of this is stout. Ireland is clearly a place for beer lovers. You’ll find charming little pubs serving great beer all over the country, but the best place to be in Ireland is probably the capital city of Dublin.
A beer lover could do much, much worse than to live in the home of Guinness. What’s exciting about Dublin is the mix of tradition and innovation. Beer is an integral part of Irish culture, and there are plenty of traditional pubs serving relatively traditional beer all over the city. But for those who are interested, numerous craft pubs have also popped up in recent years, serving the best beer in the country, and many of them are now thriving, growing, and expanding.
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
The UK of course has a rich brewing heritage, and although “macro lager” nearly wiped out many of the country’s local ales during the last century, the Campaign for Real Ale and then the global craft beer revolution have helped spur a revival in the UK beer scene. You can now find great beer in every corner of the country, but the big cities are where you’ll find more variety as well as innovation.
However, it’s not London with its 5,000 pubs that is our choice, but Edinburgh. The city seems to be as densely full of pubs as London is, but arguably has even better beer and more styles, including local styles such as the wee heavy and various herbed beers.
Canada tends to be overshadowed by the US when it comes to beer, but it too has a thriving, vibrant beer scene. The top spot for best beer city would probably be a bit of a tussle between Vancouver and Montreal, but we’ll choose Montreal.
The city had some of the first microbreweries in Canada, and several of the top rated beers in the country today are brewed here. The city is also home to Mondial de la Bière, one of the biggest beer festivals in the continent and in the world. Montreal is also the home of two of Canada’s biggest brewing companies, Labatt Brewing Company and Molson Brewery. Clearly, beer is a very important part of Montreal, and the city accommodates a diversity of tastes. You’ll find traditional pubs, hipster-baiting brewpubs, and corporate watering holes serving everything from mass produced lager to European and American ales, with a considerable number of inventive, local brews.
Nelson, New Zealand
Most New Zealand beer is pale or amber lager, but like almost any other place in the world today, there are now microbreweries producing a diverse range of high-quality beers here. Although overall consumption of beer in the country has been decreasing, the popularity of craft and premium beer has been rapidly growing. A lot of this is concentrated in Nelson – with more than 10 microbreweries, including Mac’s Brewery, New Zealand’s first, the city of Nelson can quite safely be called the beer capital of the country. It’s a small city, so it’s fairly easy to cover the entire beer trail by cycle – a great way to spend your weekends.
Choosing just one city in the US based on its beer is incredibly difficult – and also bound to be controversial. The country has so many spectacular beer cities today that it’s impossible to do justice to them all. Nonetheless, Portland is our recommendation.
The city is said to have more breweries than any other city on earth, and what’s more, some of them go back to the early days of the craft brewing revolution. Many of the local breweries conduct tours of their facilities, and there are also longer tours that cover multiple breweries. One fun way to get around Portland on a tour is on a large, bus-like tandem cycle. From old-school breweries to modern, hipster-friendly craft pubs, Portland has it all. The city has several beer festivals, “growler stations” where you can fill up a growler of beer and take it home, and also numerous theaters that serve beer.
Prague, Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is the country with the highest per capita beer consumption in the world, and its capital city of Prague has been famous as a brewing city for centuries. Even today, there are breweries in Prague that go back as far as 1499, such as the U Fleků brewery and pub, which has a beautiful façade, a beer garden, and even a beer museum. The Czech Republic’s most famous style of beer is the pilsner, and although it originally came from the city of Plzen, you’ll find plenty of examples of it all over the country, including in Prague. You’ll find many other styles too in the city’s numerous pubs, bars, and restaurants, including traditional Czech beers and some modern, innovative ones. What’s even better is that the beer here is usually surprisingly cheap.
Beer is nothing new in Japan, but traditionally, the most popular style has been pilsner. The country even had the “Dry Wars” in the late ‘80s, which is when breweries battled it out trying to produce increasingly “dry” tasting lagers – crisp brews with very little malt flavor. However, in the last 20 years or so, the beer market has increasingly diversified, and today there are over 200 microbreweries and several beer festivals in Japan, a considerable number of which deliver the kind of quality and attention to craft that people across the world associate with Japan. The country’s beer scene is still quite young though, which is why the capital city is the best place to be. This is where you’ll find the greatest variety and the best quality of beer.
by Garreth D'Mello
Where are your favourite breweries around the world? Let us know in the comments!