I didn't know when I moved to San Diego that I'd be gaining ten pounds of beer weight. I'd heard of Stone before moving there, a popular IPA, but had no idea of the extent to which San Diego reigns supreme in the beer scene. My friend and I ended up renting an apartment on the outskirts of Little Italy, right next to the Ballast Point brewery. There I discovered that IPAs can be grapefruit flavored. Bitter hops, sour grapes, refreshing citrus--it blew my mind!
Before moving to SD, I was a wine person. But after a year of drinking all of the coffee stouts, double IPAs and saisons San Diegos breweries had to offer, I was a believer.
I used to joke that there were so many breweries in San Diego that you could throw a rock from any brewery and end up hitting another. If you're a beer lover, San Diego is a great place to be! Ballast and Stone are just the beginning: shout out to Pizza Port, Coronado Brewing Company, and Modern Times. Miss you guys. Anyway, here are five more cities to be if you love beer. Open one up, kick back, and relax.
1. Pilsen (Czech Republic)
Okay, so I know it says "Pilsen" above a picture of Prague, but hear me out. I once heard Prague described as the place where "beer is cheaper than water." If one enters a bar and the price for bottled water is lower than a bottle of famous Czech pilsner--it's a tourist bar. Also, I haven't been to Pilsen, but I've been to Prague and can confirm that it has all of the beer halls, tourist bars, and beautiful Gothic and Baroque architecture one could need. But enough about Prague, let's check out the birthplace of the lovely Czech pilsner... Pilsen!
Fun fact: Pilsner means “from Pilsen” in Czech. Pilsners are known for being easy to drink. They're light, refreshing, and mild. The style originated with the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsen back in 1842 and has since been reincarnated in different beers around the world. 150 years later, Pilsner Urquell is the standard for Czech pilsners. Here's where things get a little dicey: though the name "pilsner" is used freely around the world, only Pilsner Urquell can legally be called a pilsner in the Czech Republic aka Czechia. When compared to other beers worldwide, however, Pilsner Urquell is technically a "pale lager." What's the difference? I'm confused.
According to Carlsberg, "A pilsner is a lager, but not all lagers are pilsners. Lager is a type of beer conditioned at low temperatures. Lagers can be yellow pale, amber, or dark. Pilsner is a pale lager and it is the most widely consumed and commercially available style of beer." That settles that, I hope? All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, you know what I mean?
Another fun fact! 9 out of 10 beers consumed worldwide are pilsners. They're just that popular. And no doubt, there is no place where you'll find fresher, cheaper Czech pilsners than in the Czech Republic, Pilsen, or Prague.
PS: Did you know that the original Budweiser originated in the Czech Republic?
2. Tallinn (Estonia)
The capital of Estonia is known for its bustling tech industry, a cobblestoned Old Town, and other landmarks that look straight out of the 15th century. But did you know that there's a fantastic craft beer scene in this Baltic city?
My favorite spots include Taptap, a shop with around 600 bottles for sale as well as 6 beers on draft, Speakeasy by Põhjala (Põhjala is one of the best breweries in town, found everywhere in bars and grocers), and the wonderfully campy Depeche Mode Bar, although I didn't go to the last one for the beer. The craft selection throughout town is abundant thanks to Põhjala, which paved the way for other Estonian microbrewers such as Lehe, Koeru, and Õllenaut. There are also multiple craft beer festivals in the city each year!
Beer is so big in Estonia, famed Danish brewer Mikkeller brewed a custom beer for the Estonian market called Baltic Frontier. More on Mikkeller shortly!
3. Copenhagen (Denmark)
Denmark's largest brewery, Carlsberg, has been operating in Copenhagen since 1845. Carlsberg's most popular beer is a traditional pilsner (aka a pale lager), but it also produces other brews like bocks and even ciders, so there's something for everyone here. Their flagship brewery in Copenhagen's Vesterbro neighborhood offers daily beer tastings and tours. They also have offerings from other Danish breweries like Tuborg and Somersby.
Honestly, though, the Carlsberg brewery would be much lower on my list of things to do than Mikkeller, the "behemoth" of Danish brewing.
Mikkeller was founded in 2006 by a high school math and physics teacher named Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. Mikkeller originally operated on a unique ethos and didn't have an official brewery. Instead, they used a "gypsy" model to collaborate with other brewers and produce one-off, experimental brews. What started as a side gig blew up into a global empire of sorts--there's even a Mikkeller and Friends in Reykjavik, Iceland, as well as a Mikkeller brewery in my beloved San Diego, California. They also have locations in Tokyo, Berlin, Singapore, Barcelona, and on and on. I've never had a Mikkeller beer I didn't like. The quality, brewing, and mentality over at Mikkeller are top-notch!
For more info, you should totally check out our blog on drinking all of the beer and eating all of the food in Copenhagen.
4. Bruges (Belgium)
Belgian beer is famous. Brewing dates back to the 12th century in Belgium when monks at abbeys were allowed to brew beer for fundraising efforts. Though there are now a variety of Belgian beers, the two most popular are Trappist beers and Abbey beers. Trappist beers are named as such because they're brewed in Trappist monasteries. They have very specific standards for what qualifies as a Trappist beer, the details of which I won't go into here. Popular Trappist beers include Chimay and Rochefort. On the flip side, Abbey beers are any beer brewed in a monastic setting or any beer that is monastic in style, meaning commercial breweries can make beer that is like a Trappist beer, but because it wasn't made by a Trappist monk, it doesn't count as a Trappist beer. A monk in a non-Trappist monastery brews an Abbey beer as well. Confused? Me too.
Also of note in Belgium are Belgian lambics, a type of beer brewed in the Pajottenland region of Belgium. Belgian lambics like Cantillon and Tilquin both have crazy cult followings, so they must be doing something right. You should also try a grisette if you have the chance. Grisettes are light and golden Belgian-style farmhouse ales that originate from the mining regions on the border of France and Belgium. Basically, there are so many different kinds of Belgian beer to try it's impossible to get bored.
Anywho, while Brussels seems like the obvious choice for this list, I find that the quiet, quaint, Medieval city of Bruges provides a unique setting to try Belgian beers at one of the city's many beer bars. Just be careful! Belgian beers are often way boozier than American beers--like 5-7% ABV boozier. In other words, I weirdly can't drink more than two or three at a time without getting the spins. Word for the wise: take it easy with these.
5. Munich (Germany)
No beer enthusiast list is complete without a shoutout to the home of Oktoberfest itself--Munich, Germany. What is Oktoberfest, anyway? According to my sources, it "originated on October 12, 1810, in celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria, who later became King Louis I, to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen." That settles that! Nowadays, I'm pretty sure it's just an excuse to drink, but I've never been so I can't say. I just base this assumption off of my American friends who fly to Germany just for the sake of wearing lederhosen and drinking fourteen liters of Hofbräuhaus beer in the span of a night.
Hey, Hofbräuhaus hasn't been around this long (400 years) for nothing. Grab a pretzel, order some sausages, and drink up. Fun fact: I once drank so much at a Hofbräuhaus in Munich that I woke up the next day with a cold. Also, I'm not sure how other people with weak bladders drink so much of this stuff. But it's so refreshing, so light and delicious, I get why people enjoy it. Just, maybe do some Kegels or something before going to Oktoberfest. I heard the lines for the bathroom are the worst. Oh! And always make eye contact when you toast with other people. I've heard that this is the way to not look like a rude jerk. Prost, y'all.
Well, there you have it, five cities in the world that are perfect for beer enthusiasts. Did we miss any on our list? Let us know!