Reader Recs: Best Beer Cities
Harvest season brings fresh hops, but not every city in the world can boast an overflowing offering of craft beers and homegrown breweries.
That’s why we tapped our Nat Geo Travel Facebook fans to share their favorite beer-drinking destinations.
So crack open a cold one and find out which cities are tops for hops:
The Czech Republic consumes more beer per capita than any nation in the world, so it’s little wonder our readers gave it love. Both Tomáš M. and Udo G. point to 2015 European Capital of Culture Plzeň—home to the world’s very first golden beer, Pilsner Urquell—while Amber H. says Prague deserves props for having the Czech Republic’s oldest brewery, U Fleků. “They bring you a fresh pint every time they pass your table, whether you wanted another one or not,” Amber says. And for Melissa H., the Moravian city of Brno is worth a visit owing to the unassuming brewery that can be found in the basement of Hotel Pegas.
Beyond Canada’s beer-making power players (the big three—LaBatt, Molson, and Sleeman—have all merged with foreign companies), Liz M. directs our attention to Quidi Vidi Brewery. The signature beer at this independent outfit located in the city of St. John’s is made with water harvested from icebergs that drift off the coast of Newfoundland. Come in the evening, counsels Liz, to hear live local music.
Everyone wants a second round in Belgium—at least in the country’s Dutch-speaking Flemish region. Doris H. recommends De Struise Brouwers in Oostvleteren, while Sarah G. is partial to Domus brewery in the renowned brewing city of Leuven. Like your beer with a side of people watching? Star G. suggests heading to the heart of Bruges to enjoy the view from the tavern at the De Halve Maan pub, which offers tours of its brewery in English, Dutch, and French. Tip: Want to sample Belgium’s best brews in one convenient location? Head for the Bruges Beer Festival, held each winter.
Prefer to wash down your brew beachside? Seek out Kona, Hawaii, where Debbie R. finds Kona Brewing Company to be “one of the few affordable places on the island.” A bonus, she says: they make a mean kalua pork sandwich.
Sammy N. nominates Nairobi, Kenya, home of East African Breweries, which churned out its first Tusker beer in December of 1922. National Geographic Travel’s Digital Nomad, Robert Reid, proclaimed his love for the namesake elephant on the bottle on his tour through Kenya.
Bavaria has more to offer than Oktoberfest. Travelers can experience the best of the Munich brew scene year-round at Hofbrauhaus, a place where, as Debra D. points out, “beer was considered a citizen ‘right’ and called ‘liquid bread’ for its nourishing properties.” Travel an hour southwest of Bavaria’s capital city to discover what Debra D. describes as a “unique experience” at hilltop monastery Kloster Andechs. The on-site brewery combines traditional Benedictine techniques with cutting-edge technology to produce seven winning varieties.
John M. finds Old World brewing traditions closer to home at family-owned Straub Brewery. The establishment—founded by German immigrants in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, in 1872—“hosts the ‘eternal tap’ where visitors are welcome to sample a variety of their beers,” he reports. “It doesn’t get any fresher than that!”
Washington may be best known as the apple capital of the United States, but it’s also home to one of the largest hops-growing regions in the world. Carolyn S. recommends sampling the goods at Fremont Brewing in Seattle, whose popular urban beer garden spills out onto the sidewalk in the city’s lakeside Fremont neighborhood. Ninety miles north of Seattle, Wander Brewery gets Mala R.’s vote. As does Bellingham, where the brewery is located. The small metropolis boasts “mountains to climb, lakes, and the Puget Sound,” she says.
Reporting in from much farther afield, Julie Ann V. says “I live in Bali, so I can say that the best is Bintang beer. It’s favorite here.” The brewery began operating in Surabaya, the capital of neighboring East Java, during Dutch colonial rule of Indonesia and is now controlled by Heineken.
Andy R. claims that everyone in Portland, Oregon, “makes an IPA, so it’s refreshing (so to speak) to see some fresh takes on other classic brews. Two cases in point: Hopworks Urban Brewery for lagers and Widmer Brothers Brewing for hefeweizen.
Melissa H. points to the “other Portland” (locals will be quick to point out that Maine’s Portland came first) as her favorite beer-producing area. In nearby Freeport, just a hop-skip up the coast, “Maine Beer Company is amazing!”
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Last but not least, Tuya U. claims that beer in Mongolia “is the best, especially Borgio and Golden Gobi.” Both varieties are produced by Apu Brewery in Ulaanbaatar. We’d certainly be willing to travel there (or anywhere else) to give the beers a try. How about you?
Christine Blau is an associate producer on National Geographic Travel’s digital team. Follow her on Twitter @Chris_Blau and Instagram @ChristineBlau.
What’s your favorite beer destination and why? Tell us what we missed in the comments section below.