The World’s Top 8 Best Countries for Beer Lovers
Beer is the world’s most popular alcoholic drink, and tea and water are the only non-alcoholic drinks with greater worldwide popularity. Few topics could make an international group fall into argument quicker than a discussion over which country produces the best beer. For a substance which usually contains nothing more than grain, hops, yeast and water, beer lovers are conscious of an incredible diversity in the types of beers available. Some countries are better at blending and brewing these ingredients than others, while others offer a fantastic atmosphere for beer to be enjoyed in, and other countries offer good beer at incredibly low prices. With all of these factors taken into consideration, this list counts down the top 10 countries in the world for beer lovers to add to their bucket lists.
- The UK
The UK has a somewhat bipolar reputation among foreign beer lovers. It is praised for its authentic centuries-old pubs and thriving drinking culture by some, and damned for serving warm, weak lager to binge-drinking football hooligans by others. As with most stereotypes, there’s truth to both extremes. While warm cans of low-quality lager are the norm at muddy musical festivals during the wet British summertime, every small town and village in Britain has at least one pub with a long history of serving real ale at reasonable prices.
Britain can’t match the low prices of some of its European neighbors, but beer lovers accustomed to paying extortionate prices for craft beer will be pleasantly surprised to find most good British pubs offer a range of unusual ales at prices comparable to those of the most tasteless British lagers. There are also few countries in the world where it’s easier to strike up a chat with friendly locals whilst enjoying a good beer than Britain.
Ireland is one of those aforementioned few countries. The atmosphere of an Irish pub is unparalleled, and the welcoming nature of most Irish pubs helps compensate for the fact Ireland is one of the most expensive countries in which to grab a pint. With the post-Brexit fall in the value of the pound, Dublin is undoubtedly a more expensive city than even London to go drinking in, but when you’re supping a chilled Guinness in the fabled stout’s birthplace, you’ll hardly care.
Ireland’s beer drinking culture is celebrated globally each March on St. Patrick’s Day, but American visitors are unlikely to find a green beer anywhere. Ireland also has the least diverse beer selection of any country on this list, with most establishments simply offering Guinness, as well as other stouts such as Smithwick’s and Murphy’s, and a handful of imported lagers. The fact that Ireland still makes the list in spite of this simply confirms the magical experience of getting tipsy on the Emerald Isle.
Slovakia is one of the best-kept secrets in international beer scene. Until the 1990s, it was united with the Czech Republic. Since separating, Slovakia has retained high-quality beer production without getting its neighbor’s international recognition for it. However, if you want great beer at incredible prices in pleasant surroundings, Slovakia’s hard to beat.
Slovakian beer rarely costs more than $2.50 a pint. The capital city is best known abroad as the setting of the horror movie Hostel, but visitors to Bratislava will be pleasantly surprised to find a sleepy city full of traditional pubs and beer halls which have been serving great beer for hundreds of years.
- The Netherlands
The Netherlands isn’t particularly renowned for high-quality beer, but its proximity to two European countries which appear further up this list make it a perfect place to pick up cheap imports. The Netherlands isn’t entirely reliant on imports from neighboring countries for its place on this list, though. While beer drinkers everywhere will know its most famous brands, Grolsch and Heineken, the Netherlands has a fair few fine but lesser-known beers.
Most Dutch beers are similar in style to Belgian beers. Like the finest Belgian beers, many Dutch beers are brewed to exacting standards in monasteries, making the Netherlands’ finest beers a match for the best beers brewed anywhere else in the world.
- Czech Republic
For budget-conscious beer lovers, the Czech Republic is probably the best destination on the planet. Even the most tourist-focused bars in Prague rarely charge more than $2 for a pint of one of the republic’s signature brands. The Czechs take beer seriously, and while the selection is less varied than in some of the other countries, the quality is always assured.
The only downside to Czech beer is that few places you’ll visit in the Czech Republic serve brands that aren’t readily available in other countries. But as with most things, Czech beer tastes slightly better in its country of origin. Adventurous beer lovers may struggle to find anything beyond Kozel, Pilsner Urquel, Staropramen or Budvar to experiment with, but with guaranteed quality at rock-bottom prices, the Czech Republic is fully deserving of its place on this list.
When people think of German beer, they usually think of Oktoberfest: happy folk in lederhosen clanging together 1-liter beer steins. While the main Oktoberfest celebration occurs in Munich in September, Germany is a must-visit country for beer lovers all year round. The region of Bavaria is home to scores of huge beer halls where tourists can sup oversized glasses of local brews, all served by staff in lederhosen, while being serenaded by traditional German oom-pah bands.
German beer is more varied than that of most of its listed counterparts. The most popular beer types are: pilsner, a lager similar to the most common beer served in the Czech Republic; weizen, or wheat beer, which is usually heavier and more flavorful than pilsner; dunkel, a dark lager; and kristallweizen, a variation of wheat beer which is more heavily filtered to remove all traces of sediment, and is typically the most expensive type outside Germany. Within Germany, all four beer types are readily available and reasonably priced.
- The USA
European beer snobs may scoff at America’s high position in this countdown, as they often associate American beer with low-priced light beer brands with limited flavor. Seasoned beer drinkers, however, have long known there’s much more to American beer than Coors and Budweiser. With the spread of craft beer around the world in recent years, people have begun to associate the USA with some of the best beers that money can buy.
Microbreweries were an American phenomenon long before craft beer became the drink of choice for hipsters across the world. With brands like Lama Dog from USA and Brew Dog now flying the flag for American craft beers, from London to Tokyo, anyone who knocks American beer is now trading on tired stereotypes and has no real idea of what they’re talking about.
As good as American beer is, it still doesn’t quite match the gold standard that is Belgian beer. Belgium has produced the world’s finest beers for centuries, many of them long before the USA existed. Belgian beer is typically available in four varieties: fruity blonde beers, the best known of which are Hoegaarden and Duvel; dark dubbels, or doubles, which are similar to German dunkels; tripels, or triples, which typically have an alcohol content of around 9 percent; and quads, or quadruppels, which crank the alcohol content up to double figures.
While high-strength beers in other countries are often the unpalatable preserve of committed alcoholics, Belgian beers with higher alcohol contents are often more flavorful than weaker iterations. The naming conventions of the various beer types were established by Trappist monks, who are today responsible for brewing the most highly regarded beers in the world. Unlike most beers, Trappist beer improves with age, which explains why higher alcohol content is associated with improved flavor.
This list is sure to spark debate, but for every German furious that American beer placed higher than theirs, and for every Brit who’s blown an unexpectedly large amount of money after taking a cheap flight to Dublin, plenty of other drinkers are nodding their heads in agreement. For a drink which usually brings people together and promotes positive feelings, beer has a surprising ability to spark arguments. Whatever your preference, there are far worse ways to spend a summer than enjoying a few beers in each of the countries that made the top eight.