The European Beer Bucket List
Beer. It’s so good that the pyramid builders accepted it as payment for their backbreaking labour. It’s so good that ‘cenosillicaphobia’ – fear of an empty glass – is an actual thing. Even the philosopher Plato once said that “he was a wise man who invented beer”, and he was right – but it was another mighty philosopher, Homer, who truly nailed it when he lovingly described his beverage of choice…
If you’re the sort of person who starts to get all a-quiver at the thought of those tiny bubbles rising through amber-gold liquid, or that first thirsty sip of a crisp beer – so cold it makes the glass frosty – on a hot summer day, keep reading. To celebrate the very existence of one of the greatest drinks on this green earth, we’ve compiled a list of some of Europe’s very best destinations for beer-lovers. Cross these beauties off your Beer Bucket List….
Dublin – The Guinness Storehouse
Well, it’s just been voted Europe’s number one tourist attraction, and apparently half of all foreign visitors to Dublin come here. The Guinness Storehouse isn’t just a beer experience though, it’s a true Dublin experience. The Guinness brewery helped shape Dublin. It’s sewn into the fabric of the city. There are very few people in Dublin who won’t smile when you mention the smell of roasting hops wafting from the brewery through the city’s streets; so strong you could practically chew the air. It’s just… Dublin. It helps that Guinness is absolutely gorgeous, of course, and that the Storehouse is about as slick a museum as you can imagine. They’ve captured the inextricable link between Dublin and its most famous export, and they tell the story of both the drink and the city beautifully. You can even star in an old-school Guinness ad, and best of all you get a free pint in the Gravity Bar at the end of the tour, which you can drink while you look down over the city.
Pilsen – Bathe in Booze at a Czech Beer Spa
This is the perfect thing for competitive beer lovers. “Oh, you think you like beer? Well I BATHE in it, mate!”
It’s probably better to not be that guy, but if you must that guy, you might as well be him while splashing around in a bath full of beer in the beautiful Czech Republic. Apparently, bathing in beer is good for you. I don’t know the science behind it, and I’m not really interested in the science behind it – you had me at beer-bath. The Pilsen Purkmistr Beer Spa is the place to do it. Pilsen, just an hour’s drive from Prague, is the place where Pilsner comes from (and if you don’t know what Pilsner is you have no business calling yourself a beer lover). You can have a 20-minute beer bath experience – with another 20 minutes to shower and dress afterwards – for around 25 Euro, and that price includes the beer you consume during the bath.
Bremen – Beck’s Brewery Tour
Most people think of Bavaria when they think of German beer, and that’s fair enough – Bavarian beer is amazing. But one of Germany’s biggest beer exports is actually made in the north of Germany – Bremen isn’t just a gorgeous little city, it’s also home to Becks beer. You can do a two-hour tour of the brewery for €10.90, with really knowledgeable guides giving a great insight into the history of the brewery (tours available in German and English). The best bit of this tour? Becks are very generous indeed when it comes to tasting. For this reason, we suggest taking an afternoon tour; you won’t feel quite so bad about indulging! Make sure to book this in advance – you can call them or book online.
Brussels – Delirium Café
A lot of people will tell you that you simply must go and do a proper beer tour when you’re in Brussels, because there is just so much awesome beer to try. And they have a point. On the other hand, why should Mohammed go to all those mountains when he could just go to Delirium Cafe and have all the cold, crisp, refreshing mountains come to him instead? There are close to three thousand different beers on the menu (about 2000 of them Belgian), with new beers added every month. They hold a Guinness Record for having the biggest beer menu in the world, and the bar staff know their stuff. It’s beer heaven – but even more importantly, it’s also hella good fun, always packed with people and guaranteed to have a great atmosphere. You will have a really, really good time here.
London – Camden Town Brewery
The Camden Town Brewery has been making lager since 2010, when the brewery’s founder Jasper Cuppaidge decided that he’d had just about enough of drinking bad lager, and started to make his own. The Brewery now produces 30,000 pints of sweet amber nectar per week, and not only that but they’ve opened a Brewery Bar from Tuesday to Sunday, where you can sit and enjoy all of their beautiful beers on tap for £4 a pint. It’s a lovely, simple set up, made by beer-lovers for beer-lovers. Their flagship brew is Camden Hells Lager, and it’s pretty moreish. And the best bit is that from Thurs-Saturday they even bring food trucks along to the private street outside the bar so you can get some top quality soakage – Philly Cheesesteaks, BBQ, Indian street food… you won’t go home hungry. You may go home tipsy.
Smoked Bamberg Beers – Schlenkerla
Bavaria is responsible for a lot of really great beer, and in the Upper Franconia region of the state of Bavaria, there are over 200 different independent breweries making over 1000 different types of beer. The region has the world’s highest brewery density per-capita, and you can do a special ‘beer tour’ of the regions breweries. But if you can only get to one brewery, make it Schlenkerla. They make a tasty little rauchbier, or smoked-beer (made with kiln-dried malt), that’s actually nicknamed ‘liquid bacon‘. If that doesn’t make you want to go there immediately and drink all of it, I don’t know what will. It’s a beautiful, woody, smoky beer, and it tastes great from a bottle – but until you’ve tasted it direct from the cask, you haven’t really tasted it. This is one for serious beer-lovers, and it’s under an hour’s drive from Nuremberg airport.
Dusseldorf – Füchschen Alt
The ‘longest bar in the world’ is in Düsseldorf, Germany. Ok, don’t go here expecting one exceptionally long mahogany counter-top – it’s actually a collection of around 300 pubs, bars and breweries, all crammed together into one beer-drenched half square mile. They’re separate but they all band together to serve the city’s signature Altbier. Customers spill out of the bars and onto the street, and the divisions between each watering hole become blurred as the street turns into one giant party. Of all the breweries and bars in the Alt, we recommend finding Füchschen. They make a really, really nice Altbier, they will keep your glass full without you even asking for more beer, and they serve excellent food which you’d be a fool not to eat, considering the vast amounts of beer you’ll almost certainly be consuming here. It’s generally packed with people, and the perfect place to get better acquainted with Dusseldorf.
Amsterdam – Arendsnest Beer Tasting
Amsterdam’s beer credentials are strong – it’s the city that brought Amstel and Heineken to the world – but there are far more beers getting brewed over there than just these two behemoths. The Heineken Experience in the city is definitely worth doing, but for an unbeatable and very delicious introduction to the world of Dutch brewing, go to Arendsnest Beer Tasting Rooms. They serve around 150 different kinds of beer, each and every one of them brewed in the Netherlands. The bartenders are not just friendly, but they’re outlandishly knowledgeable about the drinks they serve, and they’ll happily help customers find a beer they’ll like (even people who don’t think they like beer!). If you want to make this beer experience the very best it could possibly be, get a spot outside so that you can sit by the canal while you sip. And order the cheese board.
Cologne – Peter’s Brauhaus
Kolsch very own signature brew of Cologne, and any self-respecting beer-hound will make sure to drink plenty of it when they visit the city. St. Peter’s Brauhaus is the place to have a full-on traditional Kolsch drinking experience – it’s an old-school German brewery and pub where they only serve small glasses of Kolsch (200ml) because Kolsch tends to flatter quicker in bigger glasses – but don’t worry, the servers are constantly orbiting the place with clinking trays full of booze and replacing empty glasses, so you won’t get too thirsty. If you’ve had enough, put your coaster on top of your empty glass to signal to the Köbes that you don’t want a refill. You’ll have a really good time at Peter’s Brauhaus, and to make it even better the place does some really good, traditional German food. Prost!
Namur (Belgium) – Maredsous Abbey
Contributed by Bram Reusen of http://www.travel-experience-live.com/
My absolute favorite beers in the world are brewed by the Benedict monastery known as Maredsous Abbey, located near the town of Namur in southern Belgium (just a half hour drive from Brussels Charleroi Airport). Three beers carry the name of Maredsous—Maredsous Blonde, a 6% blonde ale that the monks still drink at lunch; Maredsous Brune, an 8% brown dubbel-style beer; and Maredsous Triple, a delicious golden 10% Belgian triple. The brewing process is still a well-kept secret, but it is public knowledge that all beers mature at least three months before they are served or sold. Although all three Maredsous beers are sold in many bottle shops in Belgium, and some also in other countries, the one and only place to try these spectacular beers for the very first time is the Maredsous Abbey itself. The abbey is open to the public, can be toured and has a cafeteria. They make and serve cheeses as well.
Edinburgh/Glasgow – Brew Dog Bars
Ok, Brew Dog actually has bars all over the UK now but we’re sending you to the ones in our Scottish destinations because Brew Dog is a Scottish brewery. You may have first heard of them sometime around 2008 when they created the strongest beer ever made in the UK, or it might have been time in 2010 when they made the world’s most expensive beer and packaged it in the cavities of actual roadkill… anyway, they’re pretty much a household name now. And it’s not just because of the gimmicks and stunts, although they are awesome – Brew Dog actually makes really nice beers. Go and drink some of them at a Brew Dog Bar, where you can sample their range – served by genuinely happy bartenders, in pretty awesome surroundings, accompanied by good music. Try as many as you can, but don’t miss the Punk IPA.
The Vagabund Brewery in Berlin is what’s known as a ‘nano-brewery’ – this is a brewery that can only brew fewer than three barrels worth of craft beer at a time (that’s 352L). Vagabund can brew 180L. Working with small volumes of beer means that the Vagabund brewers gives their undivided attention to each brew, and can easily experiment with all manner of different styles of beer (take, for example, their latest salted lime beer). This is a labour of love, and you can taste it in their beers. Go to the Brewery’s bar and sample some of their concoctions. It’s not just that the beer is genuinely excellent (which it is), but also that the bar itself is a lovely place in which to drink it. They don’t serve food, but they do allow you to bring your own, or eat take away on the premises. All they need to do is throw a few mattresses down and you’d never have to go home…
Munich – Oktoberfest
Munich (and Bavaria in general) is a stellar spot for beer lovers all year round – those Bavarian breweries and beer halls would keep anyone happy quenching their thirst no matter what month it is. But there’s one month in particular where it really kicks off, and that’s October (well, the end of September until mid-October, to be precise). There’s no way you could profess to like beer and NOT know about Oktoberfest, but we’ll tell you all about it anyway… It’s a two week festival dedicated to beautiful Bavarian beer, during which time over 6 million people descend on the city of Munich to drink litres and litres of the stuff, consume more meat than is generally advisable, wear leather trousers, go on numerous fairground rides, and and line their stomachs with pretzels bigger than a human head. It’s the biggest beer festivals in the world, and if you like beer and you haven’t been there, maybe you don’t like beer as much as you think you do.
České Budějovice – Budvar Brewery
Budweiser isn’t actually as ‘made in America’ as it would have you believe – it actually originated in a place called České Budějovice (south of Prague), which is the Czech Republic’s ‘other’ big beer town after Pilsen. Budvar is the original Budweiser, and its brewery is just a couple of hours’ drive from Prague airport. As if there weren’t enough good reasons to explore Bohemia, you can do a tour of the Budvar brewery – and it’s good. For under a fiver you can explore the history of one of the world’s most famous beers, even though most people don’t realise that it is. Budweiser America may have stolen its thunder, but they haven’t touched its flavour. This is good beer. And during the tour, you will get to taste plenty of it.
Bristol – Brewery Day
The Brewhouse and Kitchen are popping up all over the southern UK, bringing brewery experiences and beer tasting to British beer lovers. If you harbour dreams of quitting the day job and becoming a brewer, you can find out exactly what you’re letting yourself in for by spending a day in the brewery in Bristol with these guys. The brewers at B&K know beer, and they love beer, so you can be confident that you’re in good hands. The best bit about learning to brew beer is that you get to drink beer, and that’s true for this day too. They give you a couple of pints and a gorgeous bit of fancy pub-grub for your lunch – and you can take a mini-keg home with you at the end of the day – or go back in two weeks to get a mini-keg of the very beer you made yourself.