The best cities for beer lovers aren’t necessarily party cities. Sure, some of them are capable of throwing down until dawn, but for the most part the following cities favor quality over quantity. And most importantly, they are all cities that don’t make the beer lover feel like an out of place foreigner, like a shameful secret the city feels like it needs to hide. No, they are cities that make the beer lover feel right at home, because in these cities, beer isn’t just something to be enjoyed in dark pubs, it’s part of the culture, celebrated openly and joyously. And that’s what makes these the 50 best cities in the world for beer lovers.
Seoul’s beer scene tends to be dominated by big brand lagers, but look just beneath the surface and you’ll find an explosion of microbrews, and when I say microbrews, I’m talking tiny homebrews that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s the perfect city for the beer lover who’s not afraid of trying new things.
Vancouver has seen an explosion in craft-brews over the last few years, and the best place to enjoy one is probably at one of the many beer festivals the city hosts throughout the years. Sure, Vancouver will probably always have a reputation as more of a pot town, but it’s also kind of a hipster town, and if there’s one thing that every hipster town has to have going for it, it’s a respectable beer scene.
Charlottesville is a college town, which already means that it’s going to have a decent beer scene, but what really sets Charlottesville apart is its famous Brew Ridge Trail. Take a tour of the trail and experience several killer craft-brews, all while enjoying the ridiculous scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Sometimes, it’s not about discovering new brews or taking a taste test like a common wine snob. No, sometimes it’s just about landing in a place where people like to drink just like you. And nowhere in Canada is that probably more true than in Halifax, which has more bars per capita than any other city in that country. Of course, Halifax also does have its own thriving craft-brew scene so it’s not like you’re going to be forced to drink Schlitz the whole time you’re there.
Chicago has plenty of microbrews, but its real reputation lies as the king of the sports-bar. Here, perhaps more than anywhere else, you can combine your love of beer with your love of sports. And let’s face it, it probably doesn’t get much better than enjoying a beer in the bleachers at Wrigley Field.
Toronto is home to Beerfest, and I think you can figure out what it’s all about from the name. But even outside of Beerfest, Toronto has begun to rebel against the big name beers that have dominated for so long and embraced the craft-brew spirit. It’s a cosmopolitan city whose attitudes – towards beer and everything else – are becoming more cosmopolitan by the day.
Sheffield used to be a booming steel town in Northern England, but today Sheffield is a booming craft-beer town. Yorkshire in general has become the epicenter of the English craft-beer movement, and Sheffield is a big reason why, especially since it hosts an annual beer festival featuring around 700 different English craft-brews. They work hard in the English North, and you best believe they know how to play hard too.
Like many cities of its ilk, Sydney has embraced craft-brews in recent years, which has led to an explosion in the general beer culture. You have to appreciate any city that has an official Craft Beer Week every year, right?
St. Louis has always been a giant in the beer world, which means that culturally it understands the mind of the beer lover, which is always important. Of course, St. Louis’ big-beer culture has always been looked down upon by beer snobs, but even if you find yourself sneering at the very name Budweiser, there’s something for you here too, as St. Louis is also home to several emerging microbrews. The best place to start is probably the city’s Craft Beer Week.
Helsinki has relaxed its brewing laws in recent years, and naturally this has led to everyone and their grandmother creating their own microbrews in the Finnish capital. Any city that has something called a Beer Floating Festival – basically, thousands of people in tiny rubber rafts equipped with nothing but loads of beer, floating down a river – deserves a spot on this list.
Vilnius is home to the requisite craft-beers and dedicated beer pubs, and even has something called a beer bicycle, which is basically a giant multi-person bicycle that rides around town all day with people drinking beer on it. This is why Europe will always be our cultural superior.
New Orleans isn’t exactly going to blow the beer snob away with hoity-toity tastings. What it does do is provide an absolute haven to people who just want to lounge around with their beer without having to worry about being hassled by the law. New Orleans is famous for its bars, but it’s probably just as famous for being a place where a dude or lady dude can casually drink on the streets, and sometimes that freedom is worth more than all the hipster microbrews in the world put together.
Berlin is honestly probably slightly overrated when it comes to its reputation as a beer city, but that’s just because it suffers in comparison to several other beer towns in Germany. It’s like saying a handjob suffers in comparison to a blowjob. In the end, you’re still getting off with a smile on your face. But really, it’s still Germany, the beer is still cheap and it’s still plentiful. That’s all you really need.
Boston has a rich beer drinking history, and today is no different. Led by that fine patriot, Samuel Adams, Boston drinks more per capita than any other American city. It’s killing me to not make an Irish joke here. But really, Boston goes strong, and will always hold a special place in the heart of any American beer lover.
Shockingly, in Moscow, land of vodka, beer has become king. It’s home to almost two dozen breweries and has an annual beer festival that hosts beers from all over Europe. But like most scenes, the best stuff is all underground, and if you poke around you’ll find some killer homebrews and beer bashes that would put the big brands and bars to shame.
Hanoi is another place that won’t exactly thrill the connoisseur interested in sipping beer and spitting it back into a tea cup in between cheese tastings. No, Hanoi is a place to go when you want beer, and you want lots of it. It helps that the beer is almost absurdly cheap – its cheapest beer goes for a ridiculous 16 cents per glass - but it’s not like this means you’re drinking stale piss. Far from it, as Hanoi’s beer selection is not only cheap, but considered amongst the best quality-wise in all of Asia.
Melbourne is similar to Sydney, the only difference is that Melbourne’s scene is a little more developed. It has its own beer festival, plus all the beer bars and microbrews you’d expect from a premier beer city. Plus, it’s my understanding that if you play your cards right you can catch a premium game of Knifey-Spoony at any local pub.
Milwaukee’s entire identity is tied in with beer. You can’t get much more beer friendly than that. I mean, you could, but then you’d probably have to attend court-mandated meetings, and nobody wants that.
Mexico City’s hallmark when it comes to beer will always be Corona, but it also boasts several brands that never make it across the border, and while everyone else is busy drinking swill in tourist party towns like Cancun, Cabo or Acapulco, you can savor the true local taste in the capital city. It’s healthier than drinking the water.
Any time you start talking about beer and Germany together in the same sentence, you’re going to get a beer lover excited. And Stuttgart is amongst the best of the best when it comes to German beer cities. Its highlight is probably an almost three week long beer festival featuring carnival rides and white water rafting because, as we all know, the best way to enjoy being tossed around by Gravitrons is shitfaced drunk. Once you vomit, you’ll just have even more room for beer.
The Seattle area is home to a few dozen breweries, and if that’s not enough to pique your interest and make your liver beg for mercy, it also boasts plenty of high-end beer bars and bottle shops. Seattle’s beer scene reflects its cultural image perfectly – very independent, rich in quality, and just off-kilter enough that you’ll feel like you’re part of something cool.
Any city in Belgium is going to be paradise for the beer lover, and Antwerp is no different. Let’s just put it this way – there are bars in Antwerp with over 1,000 different beer selections. Enough said.
The first microbrewery in America – New Albion – was located in nearby Sonoma, and since then San Francisco has done its best to remain near the forefront of the microbrew movement. It boasts everything from microbrews that have become name brands to experimental homebrews that the beer lover can be amongst the first to sample and enjoy before they too become big names, which, let’s face it, is pretty much a beer snob’s wet dream.
London’s beer scene is always either on the way out or making a roaring comeback, depending on, of course, to whom you choose to listen. The reality is that London will always be a top destination for the beer lover, with its endless pubs and a culture in which drinking beer is almost as much a given as drinking tea.
San Diego boasts some of the top beer bars in the country and over 30 breweries call the area home. But aside from that, San Diego also has its Beer Week, which is exactly what it sounds like, and is such a beer-friendly city that it hosted the World Beer Cup in 2012. Plus, drinking a beer outdoors on the deck of a nice ocean-side restaurant, enjoying the San Diego weather isn’t exactly the worst way to spend an afternoon.
Featuring over 1,000 different beers, Nottingham’s Robin Hood Beer Festival features such magnificent beer tents that they look more like castles built for vacationing royalty. Truly, a city doing its heritage proud. Friar Tuck just wept into his keg.
Philadelphia has a long and rich tradition of beering like pros, and it’s no different today as the city is called home by plenty of popular microbrews. The highpoint in the beer drinking calendar is probably the self-explanatory Philly Beer Week, but really anytime is a good time for enjoying Philly’s beer scene. It’s always sunny in Philadelphia indeed.
Nestled on the shores of Lake Champlain, Burlington has the perfect, small college-town atmosphere. It’s laid back, with a sort of hippie vibe, and so it makes sense that its thriving microbrew scene would reflect that. Go to Burlington, relax, sample all the microbrews and hit up a local bar and listen to the next Phish.
Denver is the epicenter of an entire state that takes its beer drinking seriously. Yeah, yeah, Coors, but besides Coors, Colorado is also home to a number of kick-ass microbrews. Denver itself is the home of the Great American Beer Festival, which considers itself the top beer festival in the country and features over 2,000 varieties of the nectar of the gods.
Look, you know you’re a premium beer city when you have entire beer brand named after you – "Sapporo’s" in case you’re really, really dim. But really, all you need to know about Japan’s beer culture as a whole is this – they even sell beer in vending machines.
Denver might get all the headlines and serve as Colorado’s hub, but when it comes to beer even it can’t compete with Fort Collins. Located about an hour outside of Denver, Fort Collins has long been a formidable beer town thanks in large part to an Anheuser-Busch brewery, but Fort Collins real allure is that in beer-crazy Colorado, Fort Collins has the most breweries per capita of any city.
Oregon is perhaps the most beer-crazy state in the entire country, and nowhere exemplifies that more than Bend, which boasts the most breweries per capita in the state. Locals call Bend “Beer City, USA” and the best way to experience Beer City is probably by taking the Bend Ale Trail, which allows you to explore all of these breweries – and their beers, naturally – all while surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery.
This one might be cheating a little bit, but really that whole West Michigan triangle deserves to be included here. You want craft beers? Bells, Founders, New Holland, Arcadia… all are found here, in addition to many other fine microbrews. Plus, you can always pass out on the beautiful Lake Michigan beaches when you’re done.
There is something for everybody in Tokyo, and for the beer lover it’s no exception. Like I’ve already said, they sell beer in vending machines there, and if you’re looking for something a little classier (Than vending machine beer? No way!), Tokyo has plenty of great craft beer bars. Just don’t get drunk and confuse the beer vending machines with the used panties vending machines.
Once again, we turn to Germany, and more specifically, Cologne, which is such a beer city that it has its own style – Kolsch. In addition, Cologne is also home to an international beer festival featuring beers from over 70 different countries, because if there’s one thing that Germany has always been good at, it’s uniting the world.
Dusseldorf is similar to Cologne in that it is a German city with such a prominent beer culture that it has its own style – Altbier in this case. Nine bars in Dusseldorf brew it right on the premises. It’s hard to really choose between Cologne and Dusseldorf and so we’ll just put them right next to each other, which as longtime rivals I’m sure they will love.
Edinburgh has a long, distinguished brewing history, which is why it should come as no surprise that there is seemingly a pub on every corner. Check out the Scottish Real Ale Festival or just get hammered on one of the strong local brews. After all, they’ve been doing this for thousands(!) of years, and they’ve gotten pretty good at it.
Asheville might be kind of a surprise, especially this high up on the list, but it really shouldn’t be. After all, Asheville has more breweries per capita than any other city in America. But more than that, Asheville embraces its beer scene with pride, holding several events throughout the year with one goal in mind – getting you drunk.
Any city in Belgium is going to be a good beer city, and so it makes sense that one of its most appealing cities to tourists, Bruges, would also be one of its top destinations for beer lovers. Like many Belgian cities, Bruges offers an absolutely incredible array of different styles, all of which you can sample amidst the splendor of one of the most unique cities in the world. You’ll feel like a medieval Duke, only without all the pesky Bubonic Plague.
The Czech Republic is famous for its beer, largely because it’s both cheap and delicious, which is pretty much the magic combo, right? Plzen deserves a place of honor on this list if for no other reason than it lends its name to its most famous creation – Pilsner. Yeah. Now that’s a beer city.
Copenhagen has all the hallmarks of an awesome beer town – plenty of local brews? Check. Lots of bars and bottle houses? Check. Its own beer festival? Check. But what it also has is a relaxed, open atmosphere that allows people to drink freely and in the open without fear of getting hauled away in the back of a squad car that smells like piss. That always helps.
Montreal is the home of giants like Molson and Labatt, which means that it’s pretty much the beer capital of Canada. But Montreal also has a reputation for having one of the best craft beer scenes in the world, meaning that it’s pretty much the best of both worlds. Everyone from the city’s corporate execs to its hipster artists enthusiastically embraces Montreal’s beer culture, which means that it doesn’t matter if you speak French so long as you speak the international language of beer.
Bamberg is famous for its smoked beers and you can find almost a dozen breweries all within walking distance of each other, which, let’s face it, is always a plus when you’re half in the bag. But really, all you need to know about Bamberg is this: Bamberg claims to have the highest consumption of beer in the whole world.
Vienna is kind of an underground pick, as most people aren’t familiar with Austrian beer even though it’s pretty much in the beer heartland. There’s a reason for that, though – Vienna’s beers are locally brewed and not sold outside of the country, meaning that it’s all just waiting there for you to discover, which let’s face it, is pretty much beer lover heaven.
Brussels has been brewing beer for centuries now, and as the cultural hub of beer-mad Belgium, it makes sense that it would be a beer Garden of Eden. And it is, as beer bars here are as omnipresent as simple cafes in other, lamer cities. Brussels has it all, from variety to a local populace that will completely embrace your beer fetish.
Portland manages to combine the craft brew sophistication of the American hipster beer town with the carefree beer embrace of a killer European beer town. Come for the craft brews and pub crawl with the help of the BrewCycle, the American version of the beer bike that combines Portland’s two favorite activities – biking and drinking beer.
Amstel, Heineken, Grolsch… look, you’re going to have a really hard time finding any city that has the sort of beer legacy boasted by Amsterdam. But it’s not just the brands or even the variety – which, much like neighboring Belgium, is a big deal here – but the relaxed atmosphere of Amsterdam that lends itself to being such a great beer city. It’s long been known as a stoner’s paradise, but Amsterdam is just as big a beer lover’s heaven.
Guinness. Ireland. Guinness. Ireland. Guinness. Ireland. Guin… look, do I really have to say anything more than that?
Munich is sort of the first amongst equals when it comes to German beer cities. What puts it over the top, of course, is Oktoberfest, which is pretty much the beer lover’s Super Bowl combined with Disneyland, only with slightly less cartoon dogs and slightly more barmaids and drunks in lederhosen.
Prague is basically the Ground Zero of the beer revolution. Its people drink more than just about anywhere else on Earth, it has killer pubs, great beer, and nobody will care if you just want to chill on the sidewalk with a good Prague brew. And here’s the clincher: it’s also dirt cheap. Yes, Prague’s beer culture is the best in the world and it’s a bargain. How can you beat that?
(Previously published on October 16, 2013.)
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