Beer has been said to be the cause and solution to all of life's problems. European cities like Amsterdam and Munich, known for its world-famous Oktoberfest, may get all the publicity when it comes to the world's best places to grab a cold one, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the world is void of drinking hotspots. Whether it's the tiny city of Bruges, Belgium, or America's booming windy city of Chicago, cities all around the world show that there's always time for a tall one. These cities don't only offer surprisingly large selections of pubs and bars for your drinking pleasure, but they also make beer drinking an art form, full of rich history and tradition, that keeps people from all over the world waiting to sample their best brews. Beer tasting is not only a favorite pastime of many travelers, it's also a great way to get to know the locals and many of these locations have pubs prime for mingling.
So, when you head on your next big trip, ditch the fruity cocktails in favor of a true cultural experience as you enjoy the world's third (behind water and tea) favorite beverage -- beer.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
As the ancestral home of globally recognized beers like Amstel, Heineken, and Grolsh, Amsterdam serves up dozens of styles and flavors ripe for the tasting. The city features hundreds of cozy watering holes that serve beer or pils as the locals call it, in the quintessential Dutch style, with exactly two fingers' worth of foam at the top. Heineken, Grolsch, and Amstel are three of the best-known native brews, but a sampling of artisanal blends and wheat beers from neighboring Belgium are also offered at Amsterdam's cozy "brown" bars, which are named for their antiquated, nicotine-stained walls. The Cracked Kettle is the ultimate one-stop shop to buy your beer, as it stocks more than 500 types of beer and can ship internationally. If you want a place to sit down, try Café Gollem, which is nearby and offers a selection of nearly 200 beers or Cafe t'Arendsnest, which has over 100 varieties of purely Dutch beers from 50 breweries, with an outstanding 30 of them on tap. If your interest in beer goes beyond consumption, a tour of the Heineken Experience, where tastings are encouraged may be your best option.
While Bruges may not be as large as the nearby capital city of Brussels, what it lacks in size it makes up for in character and you guessed it, good beer. This small city is a prime location for beer lovers to sample over 450 unique varieties of Belgian brew that are each served in their own specialized glasses. The city is steeped in history and none is perhaps more notable than that of the last active brewery in Bruges, Huisbrouwerij de Halve Maan (the Half Moon brewery). The brewery and its comfortable tavern are located in a quiet part of the city next to the Beguinage of Bruges, a convent dating back to the 13th century. It was founded in 1856 by Henri Maes in a building with a long history of beer making and is now being run by the fifth generation of its descendants. If you're looking for an authentic Bruges experience, head to Café Vlissinghe, which is a preserved pub that dates back to 1515 and features a large selection of local brews. Before you leave, head to the Gouden Boom Brewery Museum, where they have been producing beer since 1455.
Mexico City, Mexico
While Mexico exports some of the world's best-known labels like Corona, it is in Mexico City that you will be able to truly taste some of the country's best centuries-old brews. Regional selections, including Indio, Victoria, and Superior, are crisp and perfect to enjoy under the hot Mexican sun. While breweries are rare in the capital city, fun taverns, mariachi clubs, and bars provide perfect tasting grounds for inquiring travelers. Be sure to check out local brands like Negra Modelo, a silky smooth dark lager, and Bohemia, a pilsner-style lager with a semi-dry flavor. Try to take in the true Mexican experience by sampling boutique beers by local brewers like Cervecería San Angel and the Santa Fe Beer Company and head out to experience a bustling night life at one of the region's many cantinas, including Salon Corona II on Filomeno Mata, La Opera Bar on Av Cinco de Mayo, and La Terraza del Conquistador, which all offer a wide selection of both local and imported beers.
If the number of breweries in Portland is any indication, natives must really love their beer. This Pacific Northwest city boasts 28 breweries, the largest number per capita than any other city in the country. Central Oregon's Deschutes Brewery opened its Portland Pub in 2008 and serves good grub along with its top-notch Black Butte Porter and barrel-aged Abyss imperial stout. For the biggest party, head to Portland the last weekend of July, when downtown's Waterfront Park hosts the annual Oregon Brewers Festival, now in its twenty-fourth year. The festival features over 80 craft beers of all styles and flavors. However, no stop to Portland is complete without a visit to Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., which helped put Portland's beer scene on the map when it unveiled its American-style hefeweizen in the 1980s. The brewery produces over 200,000 barrels of bear annually and offers free tours and tastings on the weekends. You can find their famous creation and about a dozen other Widmer beers on tap at the Gasthaus Pub, located just across the street from the brewery.
No beer list would be complete without a reference to the capital city of Dublin, where pub culture is like a second religion. Literary revolutionaries like James Joyce and George Moore were pub fixtures in Dublin and what beer lover can resist the smooth, creamy flavor and dark body of Guinness, the city's finest, home-brewed stout? A tour of the Guinness factory at St James' Gate is almost obligatory for a visit to Dublin, and travelers will delight in the requisite free samples at the establishment's Gravity Bar. Perhaps the most celebrated beer institution is the Porterhouse and its nine exclusive beers, although local brews are served at hundreds of authentic pubs throughout the city. Some of the city's top draws include The Brazen Head, the traditional Stag's Head and the cool Solas, which has a summer beer garden. Many pubs also feature live traditional music and walls lined with artifacts from years past that remind you just how much beer is ingrained in Irish culture.
This big city in the Midwest has a lot of brews to go around and a lot of places to drink them. The city's craft-brew scene is bustling and still expanding, and while Bud Light may still be the choice beverage at Wrigley Field, Goose Island's Wrigleyville brewpub right across the street from the ballpark pours everything from its original Green Line Pale Ale, to its punchy Bourbon County Stout, which weighs in at 13.5 percent alcohol by volume. Irish pubs abound in the area, with Chief O'Neills, Irish Oak, and Galway Bay all being particularly good examples of Chicago's ode to the Irish. For another international experience, go just down the street from Galway Bay to the Duke Of Perth, which has been called "one of the nicest Scottish pubs this side of the Atlantic." If you are looking for the best quantity and quality in the land, head to The Map Room, which has 26 beers on tap, plus a hand-pump. To call their bottled beer list extensive would be an understatement and it's safe to say there is something for everyone. At nearby Hopleaf, 45 beer lines feed the taps with American craft brews and Belgians and the menu is specially designed to complement the beer. Talk about a winning combination.
The cultural capital of Germany is renowned for many things, like its art and architecture, but perhaps its biggest selling point is its beer. There's no better way to spend a sunny afternoon in an open-air "biergarten" enjoying a pint or two with friends and Berlin has many to choose from. After all, is there any better place to sip Berliner Weisse (beer with woodruff or raspberry juice) than in its city of origin? Though the city is a mecca for beer lovers all year round, August is a particularly good month to visit, when the first weekend of the month is devoted to the Bierfestival. During the festival, the city center turs into a 1.3-mile-long beer garden, hosting 300 breweries from 86 countries and representing more than 2,000 different brands of beer. Pratergarten is the oldest biergarten in Germany at 150 years old and should be a top stop on your list. Located in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg district, you can have lunch outside with a cold beer and then spend an afternoon shopping at the nearby clothing and music stores. For nighttime drinking and dining, head to Café am Neuen See, which provides candlelit tables for carrying on into the early morning hours. Prost!