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The 10 best beer cities in the world

5:48 AM, Oct 3, 2012   |    comments
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Brewed by ancient tribes, monks and mustachioed hipsters alike, beer is one of the oldest beverages in the world (and one of the most widely consumed). So it's no surprise that people will travel far and wide for that perfect, sudsy sip.

After a pint of your own? There's sure to be a locale that you've missed on your rounds. Here are 10 of our top-of-the-hops beer destinations, from big-time American factory towns to major European pub hubs.

Munich, Germany

What to See: We'd be remiss if we didn't mention Oktoberfest, Munich's 16-day festival dedicated to everything beer. A whopping 7 million liters are served annually in a multitude of tents, alongside Bavarian specialties (think bratwurst, dumplings, and mackerel), all to the tune of clinking steins and pounding oompah bands. (This helpful Wired guide can help you navigate the masses.) If you can't make Munich in the fall, brewery tours abound year-round; check out the popular Paulaner and Erdinger tours.

Where to Drink: Oktoberfest may get 6 million visitors at once, but Munich's beer gardens are world-renowned as well. Pull up one of the 5,000 seats at Augustiner-Keller Biergarten, one of Munich's oldest, and soak up some Bavarian sunshine outdoors. Prost!

Denver

What to See: Disappear (temporarily) into the Denver Beer Triangle. This area, from Denver to Ft. Collins to Boulder, is nicknamed the "Napa Valley of Beer" for its eclectic assortment of microbreweries and beer celebrations. Check out October's Great American Beer Festival, where a mix of all-American brewers compete in 84 categories, including best gluten-free and best coffee beers. Nearby Golden, Colorado, is home to Coors, the biggest brewery in the world. Go on a tour of the factory, which produces 1.5 million gallons of beer daily.

Where to Drink: Prefer to party-hop rather than to stay in one place? Pedal Hopper Denver, a group-oriented "party bike" that will pedal you and 15 friends from bar to bar, provides the opportunity to add some exercise into your pub crawl. For those who wish to remain stationary, Wynkoop Brewing Company, founded by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, will bring together both sides of the aisle with a crew of inspired beers (including Patty's Chile Beer, rich with Anaheim chiles and smoked Ancho peppers).

Montreal

What to See: In early summer, Mondial de la Biere presents hundreds of international and Canadian brews, alongside events, seminars, and pairing workshops for the intellectual beer buff. Sample a colorful array of ales, bocks, and lagers (plus ciders and honey wines) from giants like Molson and Labatt as well as from dozens of Montreal-based brasseries. When hunger inevitably kicks in, visitors can nosh on everything from French-Canadian sweets to exotic meats on a stick.

Where to Drink: For the past 20 years, Montreal has been a brewpub mecca. See where it all began at quirky Le Cheval Blanc, one of the city's first, which serves a handful of insanely popular, handcrafted beers.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

What to See: With its proximity to the brewing hub of Belgium and canals that have long functioned as major shipping avenues, Amsterdam has a history soaked in the production and export of beer-most popularly, the city's own Heineken and Amstel brands, and Grolsch, with roots in nearby Groenlo. Take a trip to the Heineken Experience, a slick, self-guided tour that includes interactive displays and a peek at the old brewing stills. Brouwerij 't IJ, a brewery that offers unfiltered, top-fermented libations, has a less touristy tasting room and pub.

Where to Drink: Amsterdam is famous for its bruin cafes, or "brown bars," traditional Dutch dives that are best when dark, carpeted, candlelit, and crowd-free. Linger for hours over a newspaper and a pint at centrally located Cafe de Wetering or at the art nouveau Cafe 't Smalle. The bartenders will leave you undisturbed, and a slow pace is even appreciated.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

What to See: With a baseball team called the Brewers, is it any surprise Milwaukee is so crazy for beer? Milwaukee was once home to the "Big Four:" Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, and Blatz. Now the city houses a sophisticated craft-beer scene that builds on its rich brewing heritage. You can still visit the MillerCoors brewery, which features a free walking tour, but don't miss the Sprecher and Lakefront microbreweries. (While most tours promise a frosty draft only at the end, Lakefront offers you a beer-and a souvenir pint glass-the minute you walk in the door.)

Where to Drink: Insiders say that Sugar Maple, in Milwaukee's hip Bay View neighborhood, caters to the serious beer geek-and with more than 60 beers to sample, a soup menu, and a retro environment in which to enjoy both, we agree. Draft Magazine names nearby Palm Tavern one of America's best bars for its 250-some artisan beers, including a few rare brews.

Dublin, Ireland

What to See: The Guinness Storehouse, Ireland's top tourist attraction, takes you inside the world's largest pint glass for a history lesson and to the "cooperage" to see how the beer barrels are transported. You won't see the famous stout brewed on-site, but you will get a taste at the top-floor Gravity Bar, where a perfectly poured (and free) pint of the good stuff awaits.

Where to Drink: It may have the most name recognition, but a Guinness isn't the only glass to drain in Dublin. Drink local at The Porterhouse in Temple Bar, a cheeky brewpub that serves its own gold-medal-winning stout, Plain Porter, alongside traditional pub grub.

Boston

What to See: Beantown is the home of the Samuel Adams brewery, named after the American revolutionary and malt producer. Take a $2 tour, during which you can smell hops, taste malts, and sample some seasonal suds. The smaller Harpoon Brewery has tastings and tours, as well as Boston's annual Harpoon Octoberfest, a festival celebrating beer, music, and New England fall foliage. Oh, and keg bowling.

Where to Drink: Fight the Boston University students for a seat at Deep Ellum or Sunset Grill & Tap; both curate lengthy, highbrow beer lists and employ servers with sommelier-like skills. Boston Beer Works features a winning, seasonal selection of homebrewed drafts named after Boston landmarks, including Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale and Fenway American Pale Ale.

Portland, Ore.

What to See: With an almost endless list of local producers, Portland's craft-beer scene has been hopping with creativity since the 1980s. Tours and tastings are aplenty, but the Brewvana experience offers a little bit of everything: transportation to and from Portland's breweries, a sit-down lunch with beer pairings, and a tasting lesson. Festivals throughout the year also celebrate Portland's unique beer culture, including Feast Portland, the Oregon Brewers Festival, and the Portland International Beer Festival.

Where to Drink: For the young, hip, and bicycled, there is no end to options for Portland-area libations. Check out Rogue Distillery & Public House, which serves up its own ever-popular options (including world champion Dead Guy Ale) alongside haute pub fare. Eco-friendly brewpub Hopworks Urban Brewery serves organic beer and sustainable eats in an old tractor showroom.

Brussels

What to See: Trappists, lambics, dubbels, and Flemish reds: Belgium has been churning out beer since the Crusades. And while the celebrated monk-made Trappist ales are brewed in countryside monasteries, the city of Brussels is oft-considered the capital of Belgian beer culture. Cantilllon Brewery (listed in Patricia Schultz's 1,000 Places to See Before You Die) has been producing its own traditional beer since 1900 and still uses much of its original equipment. Join a public brewing session and sample the sweet, sour lambics that have made Cantillon famous.

Where to Drink: Brussels marries cafe culture and beer snobbery quite well at its estaminets, or small cafe-bars. Usually found at the top of experts' lists, the two outposts of Chez Moeder Lambic stock dozens of small-batch Belgian beers. For a nighttime nip, lively Delirium Cafe lists a record-shattering 2,000-some beers from 60 countries to enjoy.

Prague, Czech Republic

What to See: Had a Budweiser lately? You can thank the Czech. Pilsner, a type of pale lager, was invented in the town of Pilsen, near Prague. Try a freshly brewed cold one at the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, one of the few places you can sample a cask-conditioned, non-pasteurized beer similar to what 19th-century drinkers tasted. If you want to taste more than the Czechs' most famous export, visit during Prague's 17-day Czech Beer Festival for traditional fare, live music, and costumed servers pouring more than 70 brands of domestic beer.

Where to Drink: Nightlife hot spot Prague is as famous for its brewpubs and beer halls as it is for its dance clubs. U Fleku, which earns top marks from BeerAdvocate.com, is a sprawling tavern that serves its own dark, hoppy lagers. It's been in business since 1499, and insiders say the service is as surly -- and the beers as wonderful -- as ever.

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