Say cheers to 15 best beer cities around the world
It’s a wild, wild world of beer out there — and we’re not just talking about the fermentation going on in the tanks!
The craft beer scene has taken over almost every inch of the globe, from Australia to Estonia and pretty much everywhere in between. With experimental breweries, new takes on old traditions, and pubs catering to beer lovers of all palates, there’s a beer for you no matter where you’re traveling.
It might not be possible to drink them all, but if you want to get the most bang for your beer buck, put one of these brew-centric cities on your bucket list and grab your passport.
Portland, Maine, USA
As the US city with the most breweries per capita, Portland, Maine is at the top of every beer lover’s must-visit list. To sample a bunch of Maine beers in one go-round, stop at Novare Res in the Old Port neighborhood. From pioneers like Allagash to new standards like Bissell Brothers, Maine Beer Co., and Liquid Riot, the bar’s rotating taps won’t disappoint.
Oxbow Blending & Bottling combines the barrel-aging space for the brewery’s European inspired beers, like the flagship Farmhouse pale ale, with an airy warehouse-style taproom. In warm weather, grab a cone of Belgian frites from the Duckfat Frites Shop window outside.
You’ll find an eclectic selection of beers at Foulmouthed Brewing, in a converted auto shop in South Portland. Try the Grawlix IPA with locally grown hops or a salty gose with yuzu kosho alongside your lobster roll.
Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Only second to Portland on the breweries-per-capita list, Asheville has a long tradition of independent craft brewing. The Green Man Brewery has been packing them in since 1997 at its downtown brewery and taproom, Dirty Jack’s, with nightly live music — another Asheville staple.
Wicked Weed Brewing has made its name producing flavorful beers that are slightly off the beaten path. Along with its original brewery and pub, its Funkatorium is a newer offshoot dedicated to sour ales and other wild-fermented beers.
If you can’t make it to every brewery in Asheville from Hi-Wire to Burial in one visit, head over to West Asheville to get a taste of it all the Westville Pub. This neighborhood watering hole always keeps a range of regional favorites on hand, as well as its own brews from All Sevens Brewing.
And if you need more Asheville beer recs, check in with White Labs yeast company co-owner Lisa White, who sure knows her way around beer.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Not to be outdone by bigger cities on the coasts, Grand Rapids calls itself “Beer City, USA” and makes good on the title. Founders Brewing may have put it on the map (aided by nearby Bell’s in Kalamazoo), but this western Michigan spot has taken the title and run with it, with more than 80 breweries in the area.
Despite being housed in a former funeral home, Brewery Vivant is very much alive with flavorful farmhouse ales. Find their “Plein de Vie” wild-fermented ales, bourbon barrel-aged seasonal options, and year-round offerings like the Hop Field IPA with Michigan hops in this historic East Hills location.
Over on the West Side and also repurposing an old community space — this time a firehouse — is the original location of rapidly expanding brewery, The Mitten. Baseball fans will appreciate the clever puns of many of the beer names, from the League of Their Own blonde ale to the raspberry and hibiscus sour Rose Canseco.
Belgium might be small, but it’s big on beer history. The Trappist monasteries that founded so much of its storied beer traditions typically aren’t open to the public — and scattered around the countryside — so why not go to Brussels and sample their brews at your leisure?
Cantillon, known for its fruity lambic beers, is one of the few venerable breweries offering daily tours. Stop in for a taste, or spend a few hours at Moedic Lambic sampling many of these funky, naturally fermented beers.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Brussels Beer Project, a modern brewery focused on collaboration and experimentation. With more than 40 new beers coming out of their tanks every year, you’re bound to find something intriguing.
Tucked away up a flight of stairs (but visible from the large illuminated pint glass outside), Popeye is the oldest craft beer bar in Tokyo, founded as a “Western-style pub” in 1960 and expanding its beer selection in the ’90s. Now featuring 70 taps, the bar carries a range of Japanese, American and international beers and is also an izakaya.
A more modern izakaya-and-beer combination is found at Baird Harajuku Tap Room, one of two tasting rooms for Japanese craft brewing mainstay Baird Beer in Tokyo. At the second in Nakameguro, Connecticut-style pizza is the focus — but at either spot, both monthly special beers and core offerings are ready to pair with your food.
For a taste of one of Japan’s most well-known breweries, hit up Hitachino Brewing Lab, a tasting room devoted to the offerings of Kiuchi Brewery’s Hitachino Nest beers. In this cozy space near Akihabara station, you can sample the flagship white ale as well as limited-edition brews from one of the 10 rotating taps.
It’s not surprising, given its population, that China consumes more beer than any other country — a quarter of the beer in the world. And you’ll find a vast international and local selection of craft beers throughout Shanghai to help up that ante.
Boxing Cat Brewery has three brewpub locations throughout the city — the better to sample offerings like their award-winning dry-hopped Sucker Punch pale ale. The brewery often collaborates with other Chinese and international breweries to make one-offs like Emperor’s Horses Lychee Pilsner with 京A (Jing A) Brewing Co.
Next door to Boxing Cat’s Fuxing Lu location is Daga Brewpub, a three-story bar featuring 40-odd taps for you to try a wider selection of Chinese beers from popular breweries like Shanghai Love and Shantown. Smaller and more casual but no less impressive is The Hop Project, a bar and grilled cheese restaurant with constantly rotating craft beer on tap.
Exploring one of Germany’s most storied beer cities can be overwhelming. While enterprising Berliners have created both maps and tours to help visiting beer lovers, there’s a variety of places to find pilsners, marzens and rauchbiers on your own.
Brauhaus Lemke is Berlin’s oldest craft brewer, celebrating its 20th year in business with a cavernous space near the Alexanderplatz. Lemke also runs the Brauhaus Lemke am Schloss, a restaurant and beer garden housed in the city’s oldest brewery.
IPA and APA lovers will gravitate to Vagabund, a brewery opened by American expats with a beer palate to match. Hops & Barley, housed in a former 1950s butcher shop, offers a low-key, neighborhoody feel with a selection of traditional beer styles like the unfiltered pilsner on tap.
Instead of another glass of Trebbiano, why not grab a pint of Vento Forte IPA in the Eternal City? Start with a sip at Birra Baladin, one of Italy’s largest craft beer producers. Tours are only offered on Sundays, but the vast beer garden is perfect for a beer and a bite–with varieties like the smoky Garden and the spiced summer ale Soraya exclusively available on draft.
For quirkier options, pick up a massive porchetta sandwich at the tiny rock-and-roll-focused shop Donkey Punch and wash it down with a Birra Plurale golden ale. For people-watching, pull up a stool at Ma Che Siente Venuti a Fà — one of the original Roman craft beer bars. With 16 taps featuring international pours and a knowledgeable staff, you’ll be able to answer the question posed by their name: “What did you come here for?”
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
The beer revolution came early to Victoria, with its first brewpub opening in 1984 and the number of breweries and beer-focused outlets steadily growing since then. Swans Brewery, one of BC’s craft beer pioneers, continues to draw loyal fans to its well-appointed brewpub and hotel. It’s around the corner from Canoe Brewpub, a fellow elder statesman of the scene, where you can kick back with a juicy pale ale on the patio.
The next generation of Victoria craft beer is exemplified by Hoyne, a brewery created by the former brewmaster at Swans and co-founder of Canoe. Sean Hoyne now flies his own flag with creations like Entre Nous, a Belgian-style witbier brewed with BC cherries.
Driftwood Beer pushes the limits even further with inventive beers like the Raised by Wolves IPA brewed with juicy Ekuanot hops and wild yeast.
Living up to Australia’s sunny but chilled-out reputation, Melbourne’s breweries and bars are prime spots for a laid-back afternoon of sampling and conversation. The taps are always pouring local craft options at The Catfish, a casual, no-frills neighborhood bar that doubles as a live music venue and, improbably, a Philly cheesesteak emporium.
Moon Dog Brewing calls its on-site tap room a “tropical brewery bar paradise,” and the palm tree-decked, skylit space is an ideal environment to try a seasonal, experimental beer like the Splice of Heaven pine-lime ice cream IPA.
Thunder Road, a larger brewery in downtown Melbourne, has been turning out complex, interesting beers for 10 years. Try the Pacific Breeze Aussie ale with Australian hops and grab a snack from the Airstream trailer parked in the courtyard.
Cape Town, South Africa
For the past century, South African Breweries was the only brewery in the country. Luckily, that’s changed with the craft beer revolution, and Cape Town is hopping with new options.
Jack Black’s is a beloved local operation founded by a pair of longtime contract brewers, who opened their own flagship brewery and taproom in 2016. Stop by for a burger and a pint of their malty pre-Prohibition-style Brewers Lager or Butcher Block pale ale.
Ukhamba Beerworx, South Africa’s first black-owned microbrewery, celebrates the brewing traditions of the Nguni tribes while producing modern iterations like Utywala sorghum saison, made with sorghum malt.
With 30 beers on tap and a menu of Caribbean food to pair with them, the popular Banana Jam cafe has beer lovers covered. House brews like the Afro Caribbean Coconut IPA or Pirate Porter are always available, with a rotating list of other local options.
If you only have time to drink one beer while in Lisbon, why not do it in an 18th-century royal tunnel? The beer bar Quimera is housed in an underground path to the Palácio das Necessidades, used as an escape route for King Manuel II when the monarchy fell in 1910.
History aside, Quimera offers its own unusual beers on tap, ranging from a barrel-aged raspberry sour raw ale to a Brett IPA or a peanut butter porter.
For a longer visit, head to Marvila, Lisbon’s self-described beer district. This neighborhood designation was conceived by three local breweries: Musa, Lince, and Dois Corvos. Though each runs independently, they’re housed within a block of each other, which makes a brew crawl easy to accomplish.
Quite a few people might describe the latest craft beer trend as “attack of hops,” but there’s only one Polish beer that actually takes that phrase as its name. Atak Chmielu, an American-style IPA, is the flagship beer of Pinta. Since first introducing this hoppy brew in 2011, the brewery has expanded its range and now features a number of sours.
You can find more of Pinta’s styles at any of the three locations of the pub Kufle i Kapsle in Warsaw. Each pours local beers from Polish craft breweries like Artezan in a range of styles, including traditional smoked grodziskie, smooth Baltic porter, and pilsner.
As the founders of Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend, Põhjala Brewery has a lot of skin in the game when it comes to Estonian brewing. These relative elders of the local craft beer market have been brewing since 2011. Their brand-new brewhouse and 24-tap tasting room debuted at the end of 2018 to showcase their own beers and guest collaborations, served alongside Texas BBQ.
More Estonian brews take precedence on the draft list at Porgu, a subterranean bar and restaurant in Old Town. Try the koduõlu style, a raw farmhouse ale from the Saaremaa island brewery Pihtla, for a truly Estonian taste.
For another cross-cultural food and drink pairing, the bottle shop Taptap serves up locally made Danish-style hot dogs with its small but curated on-tap lineup. With more than 200 local and international bottles in the cellar-inspired space, it’s tempting to take more to go.
Though the fruit brandy pálinka is the unofficial national drink of Hungary, there’s no shortage of craft beer in Budapest to satisfy those with other tastes. The breweries and bars of the city are all too eager to showcase the best of Hungarian beer.
Some of the biggest selections can be found at Legfelsőbb Beeróság, which showcases Hungarian craft beers exclusively on its 10 taps and list of 150 bottles. The all-in-one Élesztő (“yeast” in Hungarian) goes even bigger with more than 20 taps from its brewery, a bar dedicated to cask ale, and even a hotel on-premise.
If you haven’t drunk yourself silly with that selection, go for a little sightseeing with your beer at Jónás Craft Beer House, which has a gorgeous outdoor beer garden on the Danube.
Casey Barber is a food writer, photographer, and illustrator; the author of the cookbooks “Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food” and “Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats”; and editor of the website Good. Food. Stories.