No city has beer running through its veins quite like Plzeň, where the Pilsner style of brew was invented in 1842. And now, having just had the honour of European Capital of Culture for 2015 bestowed upon it, there are plenty of reasons to visit and sample the city’s most famous export. Sure, the touristy Pilsner Urquell brewery in the handsome old town is worth a visit, but it’s just outside the city centre at the Plzeň Beer Spa where you find out just how seriously Czechs take their beer. It’s a fully functioning luxury spa that offers guests a bath of beer in a specially-designed wooden tub – good for the skin, the locals say. With your own draft tap within reach, simply refill and relax.
Oktoberfest may be the centrepiece of the Bavarian calendar, but any drinker worth their stein knows that there’s plenty more beer-based fun to be had in Munich. Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, in the heart of the city, is Munich’s most famous beer hall, run by its most famous brewery. Its white, dark and original beers are served by a throng of well-drilled Fräulein that buzz between the long wooden tables, clutching impossible amounts of beer at once. Order a large one (with a pretzel), and take in the bustle of one of Europe’s most famous pubs. The Oompah Band might even grow on you.
It’s heaven for beer drinkers pretty much wherever you go in Belgium, where it’s not unusual for a city centre bar to offer up to 100 different styles. But if you want to learn a thing or two about what you’re consuming, visit The Bruges Beer Museum. An iPad mini and a set of headphones will guide you through the history, brewing processes and characteristics of the nation’s proudest commodity, from Trappist and Abbey beers to blondes and dubbels. Leisurely and chic, the museum fits into its scenic Market Square surroundings perfectly – the ideal location to overlook as you sample three beers of your choice in the museum tasting area. With matching cheeses on offer too, what’s not to like?
Arrive in style by stepping off a canal boat right outside the entrance, and prepare yourself to be immersed in Heineken’s world. The history and brewing techniques are just the start – wait till you have a go on the Brew You ride, a simulator that puts you through what it’s like to ‘become’ a beer (you will get wet). Follow this with taking on the draught pouring challenge, and then personalise and take home your own full bottle. As one of the most commercially successful beers in the world, it’s no wonder Heineken is able to offer an attraction so lavish, and at an affordable €16 too.
The best thing about drinking in Poland, like most of Eastern Europe, is that it’s cheap. Local brews at House of Beer cost about £2, which is actually quite expensive compared to some of the pubs outside the historic walls of the old town. If you want to push the boat out, there are 150 beers from around the world to peruse on the menu, which the helpful staff will be pleased to guide you through. Although it’s become more touristy in recent years, House of Beer is still Krakow’s number one spot for beer enthusiasts. Darkly lit with low ceilings, it crosses the unique character of the city with a beer selection the envy of Poland.
When you think of Portugal you might not necessarily think of its beer. However this informative celebration of national brewing (also covering countries that speak Portuguese) proves that there’s more to consider than the standard offerings of Super Bock and Sagres. It’s perfect to sample something new as part of the €3.50 entry fee – Angola’s Cuca or Cape Verde’s Strela to name two delicious options. Sit at an umbrella-shaded table, overlook the recently renovated Praça do Comércio, order the museum’s own codfish cake and explore Portugal’s bond with the good stuff.
A town is defined by its beer in Germany more so than anywhere else in the world. For example, Düsseldorf has been serving its Altbier since the 1830s, whereas in Cologne, just 30 minutes away, you’d be hard pressed to get your hands on one – the locals prefer the similar tasting Kölsch. It’s the Düsseldorf brew that has the upper hand though, if only for where you drink it: the Longest Bar in the World, an area in the old town which is so called for its extraordinary number of beer halls. The dark and nutty Altbier, served in half pint glasses, is top of the menu in each one. Don’t attempt the pub crawl though, you’ll never make it.
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