It’s become commonplace for people to travel in order to sample certain cuisines or dine at acclaimed restaurants. With food tourism firmly established, it’s only natural that drink tourism would be on the rise—especially when it comes to that most trendy of tipples, craft beer.
Canadian writer Stephen Beaumont has spent nearly three decades travelling in search of the world’s best beers. He recently distilled all that he’s learned in his latest book, Will Travel for Beer: 101 Remarkable Journeys Every Beer Lover Should Experience. Here, he shares six of the most unique destinations to visit for a brew.
NEW GLARUS, WISCONSIN
This small town about two hours outside Milwaukee looks unassuming. But it’s home to the New Glarus Brewing Company, a family-run outfit renowned for its craft beers. Among the most popular is the Wisconsin Belgian Red, which contains a pound of fresh cherries in every 750-millilitre bottle. “It’s an unapologetically fruity beer, but it’s no soda pop,” says Beaumont. “You know that it’s a beer.”
Pro tip: After visiting the brewery, grab a pint at Puempel’s Olde Tavern, a mural-clad pub that opened in the 19th century.
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The Vietnamese capital is famous for its bia hoi, the name of both a light, sugary beer and the ramshackle streetside bars where it’s sold. Beaumont says the beer itself isn’t great. But sipping a cold one, usually while sitting on a tiny plastic chair surrounded by friendly locals, is a hoot. “There’s so much of my book that is not just about the beer, but the experience,” he says. “That’s definitely the big thing about bia hoi.”
Pro tip: Choosing the wrong bia hoi could leave you with stomach troubles. Ask your hotel for recommendations.
Founded by German settlers in 1850, this city is a slice of Bavaria in the tropics. It’s home to German speakers, alpine-style houses and one of the biggest Oktoberfests outside of Munich. The festival, replete with beer gardens and dance halls, attracts tens of thousands of people and features an array of craft and mass-market beers.
Pro tip: It wouldn’t hurt to have an English-Portuguese phrasebook to navigate the city.
SQUAMISH, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Just off the Sea to Sky Highway in southern British Columbia, the Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Company serves up a variety of top-notch ales and lagers. But what makes it unique is the setting: Howe Sound sits amid the snow-capped Coast Mountains, right beside a rock wall popular with climbers. “You can sit there, enjoy your beer and watch other people exercise, which is always kind of fun,” Beaumont says.
Pro tip: A room reservation at the cozy Howe Sound Inn includes a daily brewery tour.
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The Scottish capital has several fantastic pubs, but Beaumont says the picture-perfect Bow Bar stands above the rest. Long and thin, with an ornate wooden bar and classic bench seating, it’s dripping with old-world charm. “The Bow is the kind of bar that if you weren’t looking for it, you would walk right past it,” Beaumont says. “But once you get into it, the temptation is not to leave, ever.”
Pro tip: If you’ve (somehow) had your fill of beer, the Bow also has a strong selection of whisky.
In most places, walking is an intrinsic part of a pub crawl. But not in Brisbane and the surrounding countryside, where, for about $1,000 Australian, you can take a helicopter from tavern to tavern. The bars you’ll visit aren’t necessarily the best around, says Beaumont; they’re chosen largely based on their ability to accommodate a helicopter. But the experience, he says, is “cool.”
Pro tip: If not everyone in your party is a beer drinker, you can also arrange to hop between wineries or golf courses in the helicopter.