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World’s Best Beer Meccas

“The pub isn’t just a physical place but a state of mind,” says beer guru Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery. Here, he reveals the top five destinations for a beer lover’s bucket list.

Mecca: Belgium

Belgium remains a mecca for beer complexity. Most of the breweries cannot be visited—many are cloistered monasteries. But if you go to the Delirium Café in Brussels, you’re going to see over a thousand types of beer. And you’ll see people really delving into it to discover new things. But even the little café in the middle of nowhere might have 15 to 20 beers, each one with its own glass. There’s a reverence for beer in Belgium that we’ve lost, but might be getting back.

Monastery Tour: Germany

In Germany, you can visit a very cool monastery called Andechs, just a half hour south of Munich on the S-bahn tram line. Their beers are wonderful, and just came back into the US. Munich’s beer gardens and beer halls are spectacular, we don’t really have anything like them here. My favorite is Augustiner; the beer is better than the Hofbräuhaus, which is where everyone goes to but the beer is just ok.

Pub Hopping: English Countryside

The country pubs in England are very special places. The pub isn’t just a physical place but a state of mind, something we don’t really have here. You can build a pub here, but it doesn’t have the same place in the community. There’s a book called The Good Beer Guide put out by the Campaign for Real Ale that lists the best pubs in the area depending on different criteria—if the pub is beautiful, if it has a lot of great beers on tap. It’s led me to a lot of good pubs, especially in the countryside where you might not know that if you just made a left down this dirt road, in half a mile there’d be a beautiful pub with spectacular gardens.

Rising Suds: Italy

Italy is one of the big burgeoning stories in craft beer worldwide, with over 400 breweries. I was just at a place called BQ in Milan with a really nice selection. There’s a place called Bir & Fud in Rome that specializes in beer and food pairings, particularly with their housemade pizzas. Italy doesn’t really have a tradition of a separate youth culture, where younger people can go and enjoy drinks with each other. Everyone tends to drink together at cafés or restaurants, there isn’t much of a bar culture. The new beer bars are places they can be fairly sure their parents and grandparents won’t be. There are good beer bars in pretty much every Italian city these days.

Unexpected Specialists: Tokyo + Beyond

Beer specialist places are popping up like crazy all over the globe. In Tokyo you have a long-standing place called Popeye’s. In São Paolo you have Melograno. Scandinavia is on fire—Denmark, Sweden—Sweden is actually one of the biggest markets for the Brooklyn Brewery.

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