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.
Beer temperature: Cool
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.
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…
Brand: Carlsberg Green
Beer temperature: Variable
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.
Beer temperature: Increased as the day wore on
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.
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.
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.
Brand: Kilimanjaro Lager
Beer temperature: Cold
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.
Brand: Bia hoi
Beer temperature: Cool at best, warm the rest of the time
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brand: Almost anything under the sun
Beer temperature: Invariably cold
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.