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A dozen great places in the world to have a beer

January 17, 2011 | Advice, Article, Travel | 49 Comments
Dave in Ithaca, 2010

I’ll just put it out there, I’m quite partial to a cool refreshing ale.  Or two.  Or twenty two.

While beer often doesn’t like me anywhere near as much as I like it, our long standing love affair continues.  We’ve travelled the world together, beer and I, and there’s no way I’m going to let something silly like yet another screaming hangover get in the way of this beautiful romance.

I find that like many other relationships, however, location is important for keeping the spark alive.  Our passion tends to die if all we’re doing is sitting around together watching TV and complaining about whose turn it is to take out the garbage.  It’s not easy, this long term commitment thing.  When we’re in a beautiful setting somewhere on the other side of the planet, however – well, we’re just like two giddy teenagers in love all over again.

On that note – and without any further tortured metaphors – here’s a dozen of my favourite places in the world that I’ve enjoyed a beer.  A dozen, you say?  Seems only fitting really.


Eiffel TowerUp the Eiffel Tower

Brand:  Heineken

Beer temperature:  Cool

View:  Exceptional

The Eiffel Tower is probably the biggest attraction in Paris, and yet I’d say that about 99.9% of visitors miss the best thing about the big lump of metal.  Along with a friend I went up to the first level as the sun was setting, dragged some plastic chairs over to the railing and proceeded to raise several toasts to the City of Light courtesy of the little cafe situated there.  With the views over the city and the sheer awesomeness of getting drunk on an iconic tourist attraction, they were almost certainly the best Heinekens I’ve ever tasted.


Mythos on yacht

The deck of a yacht in the Greek Islands

Brand:  Mythos

Beer temperature:  Cold

View:  Can’t be beaten

There’s apparently all sorts of things that you’re supposed to look for when chartering a yacht in the Greek Islands.  In our case, we had only one non-negotiable item.  It had to have a big fridge.  When you’re moored up after a long hot day of sailing and swimming in the Mediterranean there’s only one way to get that taste of salt water out of your mouth.  A long, cold can of Mythos.  Sometimes there was a lot of salt though, so one beer just wasn’t enough.  Why, sometimes it seemed to take all night to get the last of those pesky grains out…


Lake Malawi

On the shores of Lake Malawi

Brand:  Carlsberg Green

Beer temperature: Variable

View:  Spectacular

There were a lot of great places for a sundowner in Africa, but one of the best had to be at a campsite on the shores of Lake Malawi.  I was there for Christmas with a dozen other crazy fools on a month-long overland truck trip, and with a few days in tents on the beach there was plenty of time to eat, drink and chill out.  We weren’t supposed to swim in the lake due to the bilharzia risk but after a few rounds of drinking games on Xmas morning that went out the window.  Probably not my smartest moment – but certainly one of my most enjoyable.


Abel Tasman

In the Abel Tasman National Park

Brand:  Corona

Beer temperature:  Increased as the day wore on

View:  Scenic

The Abel Tasman National Park is a gorgeous little part of New Zealand, with the country’s most popular hiking track running along the coastline.  It takes 3-4 days to walk it, so you can imagine how popular we were when a mate and I turned up in the middle of it in a dinghy laden with food and beer.  While everyone else was ‘enjoying’ noodles and warm cask wine, our little group was sinking cold Coronas and throwing some more steak on the BBQ.  Beautiful scenery, great friends and a wonderful way to see in the New Year.


Rapids in Laos

Pretty much anywhere in Laos

Brand:  Beer Lao, of course

Beer temperature:  Varied between cold and scalding

View:  Usually good, sometimes incredible

Picture this if you will.  Hot sunny days.  Long dusty roads.  Limestone cliffs, tumbling waterfalls and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.  Oh, and the small matter of a truly wonderful drop called Beer Lao.  A light, tasty lager that fits the climate perfectly, it was the best beer I drunk in South East Asia by far.  At no more than $1.50 for a big (640ml) bottle, it was the perfect thirst quencher after another gruelling 12 hour bus ride or big day exploring temples.  Of course, at that price there was no reason just to stop at one.  So I didn’t.


English pub

Old village pubs in the UK

Brand:  Anything you like (and plenty you don’t)

Beer temperature:  From ice cold lagers to body-temperature ales

View:  Polished wood and unpolished clientele are the norm

Britain is renowned for having a pub on every corner so there’s never a shortage of places to go for a drink.  While I’ve had more than a few nights great nights out in the big cities, it’s the small village pubs that I always enjoy the most.  Each one is different, from crumbling old Georgian relics that have been there for centuries to beer gardens and grassy lawns perfect for a long Sunday afternoon session, but there’s something about the character of both the buildings and the locals that inhabit them that never fails to lift my spirits.


Zanzibar sunset

A rooftop bar in Zanzibar

Brand:  Kilimanjaro Lager

Beer temperature:  Cold

View:  Unbelievable

Nestled in the Indian Ocean off the coast of mainland Tanzania, the island of Zanzibar is full of history, beaches, culture … and great rooftop bars.  The old city of Stone Town is a maze of alleyways bustling with motorbikes and human traffic and is a great place to spend a day exploring.  Once the sun starts to set, however, it’s time to climb above the noise to the tranquillity of a nearby roof or verandah.  Washing the dust away with a bottle of the local brew and watching dhows tack across the harbour is a truly magical experience.


Hanoi street

On the street in Hanoi

Brand:  Bia hoi

Beer temperature:  Cool at best, warm the rest of the time

View:  Chaotic

I just loved absolutely everything about having a beer throughout Vietnam, but especially on a random side street in Hanoi.  Sitting on the sidewalk on a plastic chair made for a five year old, a couple of inches from the dust and exhaust smoke of a million scooters and downing small glasses of bia hoi, the preservative-free local draught delivered fresh each day all around the city.  If it hadn’t occurred to me already, that was the point I realised that I really wasn’t in the western world any longer.  I’ll drink to that.  In fact, I did.


New York city

An Irish pub in New York

Brand:  Samuel Adams Summer Ale, and Guinness (of course)

Beer temperature:  Perfect

View:  Much like an Irish bar anywhere else in the world really

I love New York.  I don’t know why but I do.  Last time I was there I was staying near Penn Station, and after returning from an unexpected drenching in Central Park it was definitely time for a beer.  With grand plans of exploring the city I left my hotel and went … as far as the Irish pub across the street.  Dermot the barman was typically New York Irish, the locals were friendly and I kept expecting a few cops to walk in any minute.  Must have watched too much NYPD Blue.  I ended up returning every night I was in town – it was just an awesome little pub.


Angkor Wat

Overlooking Angkor Wat

Brand:  Angkor (like it could have been anything else)

Beer temperature:  Slightly below the surface of the sun

View:  It more than made up for the beer temperature, put it that way

On my last day in Siem Reap I decided it was time to brave the crowds and head back to the temples at Angkor for one last time.  I was going to be climbing to the top of Phnom Bakheng for the ubiquitous sunset shot and had the foresight to put a can of Angkor Draught in my bag.  It’s not a great beer, and it was even less so after a couple of hours of being thrown around in my bag in 30-plus degree heat, but being able to find a quiet spot to drink it away from the action as the sun went down over these ancient temples almost made up for it.  Almost.


Beer in BrugesA pub with 300 beers in Bruges

Brand:  Well, there’s only 300+ to choose from…

Beer temperature:  Whatever it’s supposed to be

View: It’s a crowded tiny bar, so probably the back of someone’s head

For a big beer fan like me, I’m pretty certain that ‘t Brugs Beertje is the closest I’ll get to heaven in this lifetime.  Take four backpackers, one tiny bar and more than 300 beers – each served in it’s own specific glass, of course – and you’re got the makings of a rather special night.  And a very drunken one.  It took us a while to find the place in the pouring rain but once we did … oh, bliss.  The service was mediocre, the elbow room was lacking but the beer.  Oh, dear god, the beer.  I’m drooling now just thinking about it.


Melbourne laneway

A laneway bar in Melbourne

Brand:  Almost anything under the sun

Beer temperature:  Invariably cold

View:  Quirky

I couldn’t complete a roundup like this without mentioning my adopted home town of Melbourne, Australia – and more specifically, its laneway bars.  They’re just awesome.  Quirky, tucked into little spaces, down alleyways and behind non-descript industrial doors, up a few flights of stairs or at street level, they are an essential part of the funky vibe that makes Melbourne such a fun place to live.  From a bar constructed entirely within a shipping container to multiple stories of medically-themed oddness, they’re always just a great night out.


So there’s twelve of my absolute favourite places to enjoy a beer around the world.

What’s yours?

[Images courtesy of Birgitta Seegers (Lake Malawi), Rosino (Abel Tasman), Mike Cattell (British pub), idnas71 (Zanzibar), Andrew Childs (Bruges beer), Brian Giesen (Melbourne laneway)]

49 Comments

  1. Reply

    Valerie

    January 18, 2011

    Nice...I'm just shocked you hadn't written this earlier!
    And I think you omitted the 10c Tiger beers anywhere in Thailand...at 10c, the view from the wallet would be pretty good! :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 18, 2011

      10c? If I'd found anyone selling me Tigers for 10c, I would never have left!

    • Reply

      kevin winter

      January 23, 2011

      Can I get an address for those 10c Tigers in Thailand?!? That has to be the deal of the century!

  2. Reply

    Daryle

    January 18, 2011

    Great post!! I'm a total beer girl and this got me reminiscing about my favorite beer memories. Pretty much every pub in and around Belgium tops my list! Imagine my disappointment when I arrived in Bruges only to discover the 't Brugs Beertje was closed for the week. Guess I will have to return! We still managed to find many great places while there. Cheers!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 18, 2011

      Wow, you must have been devastated - it's a great little bar! Still, any excuse for a return to Bruges I reckon. There's loads of great places for a beer there - even my hostel had an awesome bar, and there were about another twenty on the same street! No wonder I didn't get home til god knows when...

  3. Reply

    kentlo

    January 18, 2011

    Cool! You've found more than one place for best beer... expecially Eiffel Tower with Heineken that fascinated me so much!

    This reminds me of having a nice cool Japanese Sa-ke at the summit of Mt. Kinabalu @ 4095.3m above sea level.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 18, 2011

      Now that's indeed a great place for a sake, Kent! Nice effort!

  4. Reply

    Nigel Dean

    January 18, 2011

    My best beer drinking experience was on the top floor of the Guinness factory in Dublin. It was our last day in Ireland and we had loved every minute in this impossibly beautiful country. The free Guiness was black, thick, and enormous as it should be. It was a challenge but I finished it before going down again.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 18, 2011

      Free Guinness is great Guinness no matter where you have it, but on the top floor of the brewery in Dublin has to be the best place of all. Still can't believe I've been to the city twice and haven't yet made it to the brewery - there must be a law against that, surely?

  5. Reply

    Kirsty

    January 18, 2011

    They all sound perfect, but will have to say that England will always have a special place in my heart! I love being able to go on a hike and be able to stop off at, at least 10 different pubs on the way!!!
    One the trails I have done, actually had suggested pubs on the route for refreshment :-)

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 19, 2011

      Now that's the kind of attention to detail I like to see in a hiking guide! ;-)

  6. Reply

    Ayngelina

    January 19, 2011

    Fun post. I loved 333 in Vietnam just so I could ask for Ba Ba Ba

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 19, 2011

      It's a shame that I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as Saigon (Green), coz you're right ... anywhere you can make sheep noises and have someone serve you a beer is just fine by me.

  7. Reply

    Sunee

    January 19, 2011

    I'm afraid I've never understood this fascination people have with beer - awful tasting stuff! But looks like you've had some good times because of it :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 19, 2011

      Some of the most memorable (and least remembered) times of my life are due to beer! Apparently.

  8. Reply

    IsabellesTravel

    January 19, 2011

    Glad you included the Belgian beers :) If you ever come back, there`s a place close to where I live and they have over 400 beers! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_in_Belgium) Great post!!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 19, 2011

      Thanks! Over 400 beers, you say? I think I've just found the reason for my next European trip right there...

  9. Reply

    Katrina

    January 19, 2011

    Ah, Dave! You must come to Ireland! As noted in a recent post (http://www.tourabsurd.com/cork-top-5-got-saga/), the Abbot Ale House here has 430 types of beer. The view inside the Ale House isn't all the photogenic, but since it's an off-license establishment, you can take your beverage(s) of choice off the premises. (I suggest heading to the coast somewhere. Gorgeous!)

    Cheers and happy drinking!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 19, 2011

      I've been to Ireland a couple of times now ... and it sounds like I need to come back for a third!

  10. Reply

    Dylan

    January 19, 2011

    Love the idea of relating appreciation of beer with the physical drinking condition! Totally a fan of setting up the perfect mood for a pint - a good consumption is never without a prime location and/or good company.

    You and I need to grab a pint some time sir :)

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 19, 2011

      Yes, yes we do!

      Location and company are vital to turn a merely ordinary quaffing experience into something far more memorable. Or less memorable. Or something...

  11. Reply

    Zablon Mukuba

    January 19, 2011

    No Germany?

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 19, 2011

      Heh - only because I haven't been there yet! :)

  12. Reply

    Cam

    January 20, 2011

    Hey Dave,

    I love a good beer posts! We've been building our collection up as well, check out our latest:
    http://travelingcanucks.com/2011/01/international-beer-reviews-from-around-the-world/

    I know its a tough one, but do you have a fav? Top 3?

    Cheers!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 20, 2011

      Those are some fun reviews ... and making me thirsty despite the fact it's only 7am. I think I may have a problem.

      Favourite beer ... wow. Hmm. I reckon it's pretty dependent on the temperature and location - if it's really hot and I'm in SE Asia, something cold and light like a Beer Lao is very hard to go past, but when the mercury drops and I'm somewhere in Western Europe, a Belgian Trappist beer like Grimbergen Blond or Trippel is just fantastic.

      Oh, and a Guinness in Ireland or (surprisingly) New Zealand, especially on St Patrick's Day!

  13. Reply

    Chris - The Aussie Nomad

    January 20, 2011

    Ah the story that convinced me to grab a heineken up on the Eiffel Tower. Money well spent if you ask me.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 20, 2011

      Money well spent indeed. And hey, if I can inspire people to have a beer on a iconic tourist attraction, my work here is totally done. ;-)

  14. Reply

    Suzy

    January 20, 2011

    I'm thirsty now for beer and travel. I'm surprised you didn't include cracking open that beer at 8AM for La Tomatina as I sat there nervously worried about losing an eye in the next hour. Perhaps you will need a Part 2 to this.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 20, 2011

      Hahaha - funny you say that, cracking a can at La Tomatina was totally on my list when I was brainstorming that post! You're right, I think I need to do another one ... the 'Sunday Session' edition, perhaps. Or at least add 'one for the road' above... ;-)

  15. Reply

    Rebecca

    January 20, 2011

    I don't even like beer (my boyfriend is still working on this...) but I'd love to have one in every spot you've mentioned here! Great post.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 20, 2011

      Hehe - if I can convince even a non-beer-drinker to enjoy (endure?) some amber goodness in the name of travel, I'm happy! Thanks! :)

  16. Reply

    Poi

    January 20, 2011

    A can of Leo at Chiang Mai Gate? Maybe not so special...

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 21, 2011

      Oh I don't know, it's pretty special when it costs about a dollar. I only had a beer at CM Gate once - the smoothies always seemed to take over instead!

  17. Reply

    Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_

    January 21, 2011

    BUHA! I love that you put the beer temp in this. You don't realize that sometimes you will get a hot beer and it can be kinda awful. PS you forgot my house... great place to drink beer! It's always cold!

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 21, 2011

      Haha - I was actually going to make the last entry 'my place' but it seemed a bit lame after all of the other places before it!

  18. Reply

    kevin winter

    January 23, 2011

    Preach on, brother, preach on!

    I'm with you on Angkor at Angkor, Anything in Laos, and the Eiffel Tower. But I'd have to add a rich Amber on top of a ski hill in Montana, or maybe almost any beer I've ever had in Portland to the list....

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 23, 2011

      I'm getting seriously excited about my first trip to Portland in June. The beer is supposed to be incredible! :-D

  19. Reply

    Andrew

    January 27, 2011

    The mythos in the Greek Islands really was fantastic. I'm totally with you that it is important to wash out all of the salt. Even if it means an extra beer just to be sure.

    • Reply

      Dave

      January 27, 2011

      Damn I could go a Mythos right about now...

  20. Reply

    Stephen

    January 27, 2011

    Nice post. Lots to look forward to in southeast Asia...

    • Reply

      Dave

      February 6, 2011

      It's the perfect combination really - very hot days and very cheap beers.....

  21. Reply

    Jim

    April 17, 2011

    Awesome! Now I'm thirsty, off to the fridge for an ice cold Sammy!

  22. Reply

    The GypsyNesters

    April 21, 2011

    Love the list. Got say a Carib on the deck of a boat in the Caribbean right after snorkling. That doesn't suck.
    -David

  23. Reply

    Edger

    June 9, 2011

    Any Rogue beer at the brewery in Portland, OR during WDS?

    • Reply

      Dave

      June 10, 2011

      Oh wow yes, absolutely! Esp if you happen to meet your favourite Blog Stalker while you're there... ;-)

  24. Reply

    Tanja Cilia

    June 11, 2012

    Psst! Malta = Cisk!

  25. Reply

    Sarah

    September 2, 2012

    Absolutely briliant !!! Very very well written !! I would do anything to meet you, sit with you and have a nice cold beer !!! Cheers ! :)

  26. Reply

    Marita

    February 27, 2013

    Love it Dave! Never used to be a big beer drinker at home (Melbourne!) but there is nothing like the tropics to make you fall in love with beer :) So agree with your Hanoi one... my first stop in Vietnam last year and was an awsome experience sitting on those little plastic chairs on the busy streets drinking the local bia! I didn't think I'd get better then a $1 beer until I was in Hoi An drinking pots for 25c... not that I can remember how much we downed for that price haha!! Can't wait to try those in Laos and Angkor Wat (this year hopefully!) :) Also making me want to go out tonight for a beer in one of my hometown laneways you mentioned!!! thanks!

    • Reply

      Dave

      February 28, 2013

      "there is nothing like the tropics to make you fall in love with beer"

      Now there's a statement I can absolutely get behind... ;-)


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