You can’t beat a good holiday beer and these are the best European destinations to sink a tasty brew.
Although the craft beer revolution is definitely changing the tastes of beer drinkers around the world, some places have always had a solid rep when it comes to brewing. Europe is of course the cradle of decent beer, although now America is swooping in to steal the crown.
But if you want to sample the finest beers in the world, Europe is definitely the place to start.
In no particular order, here are some of Europe’s best beer destinations.
Obvious? You betcha. Belgium is probably the beer capital of the world – no joke – the country does beer like France does wine. There is easily a beer for every day of the year (and the rest) with a glass to match for most of them. An evenings sampling can be measured by the amount of different glasses on the table.
Cities like Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp and Bruges are packed full of atmospheric bars to get sampling. Not only that, it’s a genuine cultural experience on the UNESCO list. Yup. Belgian beer is so good it’s a world recognised cultural asset. So, when are you going?
Best brew: If you’ve only ever tried Stella Artois prepare to be blown away. The standard lager in Belgium is Jupiler and it’s so much better than Stella, it makes you wonder why it hasn’t been exported so successfully. Besides this there are so many beers it’s hard to pick one. Duvel, Orval, Kwak and Leffe are just a small selection from beers champagne country.
When a country’s beer is so good they have an annual festival for it, you know there’s something serious going on. Oktoberfest in Bavaria is where the centrepoint of this celebration of beer is based, but it’s now found globally.
If you think German beer is all Becks and Holsten Pils, well, you’ll be in for a shock. German bierkellers and biergartens normally have a decent selection of fancy braus to keep you coming back for more. All together now… Prost!
Best brew: Like everywhere that’s serious about beer, the varieties vary from city to city. Brit’s might be familiar with Früh, Bitburger and Erdinger which are all excellent, but there’s a whole world of delicious German beer out there. One of the original craft beer leaders is Eschenbrau in Berlin who do a great selection of modern beers.
Anyone who’s been to Prague knows that the beer is plentiful, tasty and mega cheap. Beer has a rich history in the Czech Republic, with America even doing their own version of the legendary Budvar beer (Budweiser in case you didn’t know).
The standard on tap will most likely be Pilsner Urquell, which is actually the original pilsner from Pilsen. Most Czech beer is lager/pilsner based but there is a growing craft beer scene which can be found in the better bars across Prague and the Czech Republic. You’ll find porters and stouts, fruit beers and IPA’s with crazy Czech names.
Best brew: Nothing wrong with a Pilsner Urquell! Staropramen and Kozel are also probably familiar names to most readers, but seek out the craft beer scene and you will be justly rewarded. Check Craft House Prague or Bad Flash.
Think the UK is just about warm ale and imported low quality lagers? Get to the right pub and you’ll be spoiled for choice with a selection of classic British and modern craft beers and ales.
Local varieties have often been kept a local secret, but these days you’ll find ales like Doom Bar from Cornwall or London Pride all over the country.
The craft beer scene has hit the UK hard and the amount of microbreweries popping up around the country shows no sign of slowing down. Lagers, which have classically been either imported or low grade are now getting a hand up. Breweries like Brewdog, Beavertown and Cloudwater are leading the charge for amazing modern British beers.
Best brew: It’s a bit like choosing your favourite child, but for classic British ale you can’t beat a Tribute or Doom Bar. For modern classic, Beavertown’s Gamma Ray and Neck Oil are pretty damn solid choices. I was recently at the Three Legs Brewery in Rye, East Sussex which was exceptional – plus my local brews Canopy and Brixton are both fantastic.
Holidays on the Spanish Costas have always been accompanied by the OK San Miguel or decent Estrella Damm. Malty lagers which go well with a selection of tasty tapas and a Mediterranean sunset.
Lager has always been the order of the day from the big breweries such as Damm and Mahou. But the craft beer boom is also surging ahead in Spain with a glut of exceptional modern Spanish beers including IPA’s, stouts and white beers.
From Madrid to Barcelona to Bilbao to Seville, many bars now serve a few local craft brews and you’ll likely spot a quaint corner bar stocking some specialist beers. A year back when I was in San Sebastian we stumbled on a Basque beer festival which was exceptional and easily on a par with the British craft beer boom. Although Barcelona is the epicentre of Spain’s microbrewery renaissance you will find good local craft beers in most cities in the country.
Best brew: Mahou is a great standard brew and the Spanish tend to swear by Estrella Galicia (not Damm, the Barcelona version). I don’t recall many of the Basque beers I had but Laugar was definitely a good one. Keep an eye out for the Basque Brewing Project and Madrid based Cervezas la Vigien.
Historically all about the wine, French beer has basically meant Kronenbourg forever. Not a bad thing as Kronenbourg is one of the best standard beers on the pump, but if you’re looking for exciting, this isn’t really it.
French beer culture has been amping up recently and the craft beer revolution has definitely swept the country by storm. In fact, after the UK and Germany, France has the highest amount of microbreweries in Europe.
Honestly though, finding a craft beer in a French pub is kinda unlikely still and you’re more likely to find a good brew in a specialist bar. But when you do find one, oh la la, you’re in for a treat. Like most of Europe, France is discovering there is more to beer than lager and you can now pick up stouts, IPA’s and all the freaky fruit beers you get elsewhere.
Best brew: The aforementioned Kronenbourg 1664 is a safe bet in any bar. But scratch below the surface and you’ll find places like Brasserie de la Plaine in Marseille, Paname in Paris and Les Fleurs in Lyon.
In the UK we’re pretty familiar now with Polish beers. Zwyiec, Lech and Tyskie are seen in pretty much every supermarket and are increasingly being spotted in standard pubs. These strong lagers are not a million miles from the brews found in Czech or Germany.
But the Polish are increasingly discovering the joys of microbrewed beers and have started to experiment with American Pale Ales and stouts.
Krakow is perhaps the centre of the craft beer scene in Poland, although you’ll find bars in most big cities serving some special brews alongside the standards.
Theres a whole world of amazing beer out there! Get out and explore Europe’s amazing beer scene via our handy flight booking widget below..
Do you think we’ve missed some of the best beer destinations in Europe? Or have you found a particularly amazing craft beer somewhere… Let us know via the comments below. Don’t forget to share!