Beer is more than just a frothy beverage here – it is a culture. The Europeans treat their Zymurgy as an art form, exalted to a religious epiphany. The honour of inventing beer might go to the Sumerians of Mesopotamia (now southern Iraq), mankind’s oldest civilisation; but it is here, in Europe, where you will find every country with its own national version of this golden elixir. Here are six of the best:
In the age of the first crusades, long before they had their independence, the Belgians had their beer. In fact, it was preferred as a sanitary option to available drinking water. The local abbeys originally brewed and distributed beer as a fundraising method. Today, the epitome of the Belgian beer experience remains the six Trappist beers, still brewed in active abbeys.
With approximately 178 breweries and over 450 different types of beer, the Belgians take their beer very seriously. No other country has a driving tour through the countryside called the Beer Route. Most Belgian beers have personalised beer glasses, uniquely shaped and embossed, in which only that beer may be served. The shape of each glass enhances the flavour and aroma of the beer for which it is designed.
Standard Belgian lagers, notably Jupiler, Maes and Stella Artois, are world class. Also try big bold brews: Duvel, which means devil; Forbidden Fruit; Judas The Belgian Beer Café is a chain of international concept cafes/restaurants, inspired by the Belgian heritage of great beer with Belgian cuisine served in an atmosphere that resembles a typical Belgian brasserie.
There are about 1,250 breweries in Germany, almost four times as many as in all other countries of the European Union combined, producing about 5,000 different brands. The beer sure flows in this part of the world. If that isn’t enough reason for you to visit, then read on.
Soak up the German sun at a Biergarten with a home brewn stein of cold beer. The German beer gardens popped up when 19th-century breweries began serving customers in the shady coves directly above their cellars. They even have a “beer garden ordinance” to protect both the concept of the beer garden – including the practice of allowing guests to bring their own food.
Although they did not invent it, the Germans were probably the first Europeans to brew beer. They are definitely the first and only country to have a “Beer Purity Law”, which permits only water, hops and malt as beer ingredients; also the oldest food-quality regulation in the world. It has been revoked but German brewers still adhere fiercely to the Reinheitsgebot as a matter of pride and tradition.
Beer + Ireland = Guinness. It all started in 1756 when Arthur Guinness set up a small brewery, which remains the largest brewer of stout today. This dark brew with the now famous cloud on top is Ireland’s biggest export and is and has become a sort of mascot for them worldwide. The Guinness Storehouse is a mandatory stop on your beer map.
Pubs are an important part in the Irish culture. It pervades Irish society, across all cultural divides. Explore Ireland through its pubs, from Dublin’s oldest beer hub to the newer clubs.
The Netherlands is home to the famous Heineken, the uncontended beer giants. The Dutch are huge beer drinkers and offer some exciting bars and local breweries to uncover the history of this mesmerising liquid. The Netherlands and Amsterdam, in particular, is home to some of the most righteous old bars in the world. The Dutch proeflokaal (tasting room) are sadly, underrated.
Do try the Dutch Kopstoot, a beer with a young gin next to it.
Carlsberg and Tuborg dominate Danish beer internationally, but did you know that Denmark has the most micro-breweries per capita in Europe since 2005. Drinking at home with friends and family is very popular with Danes, so you won’t find the pub culture as prominent in Denmark as it is in Ireland or England. Traditional bodegas, which usually feature the least amount of beer variety in their selection, are the closest thing that you’ll find to pub culture.
The best of the Fests
- Oktoberfest, a 16-day festival celebrating beer held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, running from late September to the first weekend in October. It is one of the most famous events in Germany and is the world’s largest fair, with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year.
- Belgian Beer Weekend, the first weekend of September held in Brussels
- The Great British Beer Festival, styled as the “biggest pub in the world” and offers around 450 beers from British breweries, as well as around 200 foreign beers from countries including Belgium, Germany and the USA
- Irish Craft Beer Festival, an annual celebration of Irish craft brewing, live music and fabulous Irish artisan food stalls
- Copenhagen Beer Festival, happens annually in May
These are nothing. Europe has a lot more to offer you during holidays. So why are you waiting? Check now for cheap Germany Flights and reach one of these stunning destinations.