If ever there was a reason needed to raise a pint, the celebration of one of the oldest beverages throughout history on International Beer Day seems like a pretty fit occasion! In preparation for International Beer Day this year, we’ve ranked the top 10 best beer countries in the world. First round’s on us!
Easily recognisable for popular export brews, it’s no surprise that the Netherlands is one of the best beer destinations. Heineken, Grolsch and Amstel originate from the region and maintain a comfortable share of the global market. When considering locations for beer travel, there’s a variety of seasonal special brews produced year-round. In summer, witbier (wheat beer) is a low alcohol, refreshing and fruity brew – or in the winter months, breweries will mix batches of Herfstbok, a strong dark beer with a higher alcohol content. The Netherlands exports the largest proportion of beer of any country in the world, with 50% of their output sold abroad.
GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Holland
Considered by many to be the apex of the best beer countries in the world, Belgium has a huge diversity of original beer styles, and a deeply-embedded heritage of traditional beer production. It is home to six of only twelve Trappist monasteries in the world which produce Trappist beers – the legacy of Belgian beer culture was recognised by UNESCO as part of the intangible heritage of humanity in 2016. Famous exports include Hoegaarden and Stella Artois, while stronger dubbel and tripel-style beers are popular domestic brewing styles to try.
Savour a selection of Belgian beers as you head to a Belgian Brewery in picturesque Bruges when you travel with Trafalgar on the Best of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg tour.
Beer was first produced in Australia in an effort to decrease rampant mass drunkenness in the early days of the colony, due to re-settled convicts sharing a fondness for rum. Australians have a strong loyalty to regional brands of beer, with each state or territory claiming their own unique brews – Sydney-siders favour a true-blue Tooheys New, while a Melbournian might be partial to a Victoria Bitter. Although Foster’s Lager isn’t readily available, it’s still a popular export and the biggest-selling Australian beer on the global market. While their cultural enthusiasm makes Australia one of the best beer countries in the world, non-alcoholic variations are rapidly increasing their market share as more inclusive beverage options.
The United States is one of the world’s historic beer destinations, in part due to the impact of the Prohibition Era. The US formed its early drinking practices around traditions of England and the Netherlands, and the colonial era was largely ruled by beer. At the turn of the century, the use of brown glass bottles originated in Wisconsin to prevent harmful sun rays from affecting the quality of the beers. From 1933, Prohibition laws began to gradually ease, and the market rapidly developed after WWII. As it is now, light beer dominates more than half the market share of US beer sales – popular varieties for export include Bud Light, Coors Light, and full-strength Budweiser.
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Like its Scandinavian neighbours, the United Kingdom trace their brewing history back to abbeys and monasteries – but after the Church Reformation in the 1600s, this connection with religious houses was lost sooner than other countries. Since 1971, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has encouraged the preservation and revival of traditional ale production. Around 70% of pubs now serve real ale, which has steadily increased its market share. This support of the microbrewery industry has made the UK a popular beer travel population for connoisseurs of craft brews.
Ireland has a relatively condensed beer market, but the pub culture does a good job to compensate. Ranked fifth in the world for beer consumption by country, dry stout is the national brew. Arthur Guinness established his brewery in 1756, and it remains the world’s largest producer of stout above other international exporters such as Murphy and Beamish. Like other parts of the UK, Ireland is placing focus on their microbrewery and craft beer industry to encourage local production.
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New Zealand lies in the ideal latitude for the cultivation of barley and hops, which have become popular exports for beer production overseas. Concentrated breeding programmes have been developed to fortify new hop varieties unique to the country, which flag its status as one of the best beer countries in the world for its innovation. As a result, the craft beer industry has shown steady growth – Kiwis are more likely to shell out for local, premium beer over cheaper imports. Beer is New Zealand’s most popular alcoholic drink, with a particular partiality to lager.
GET INSPIRED BY: Contrasts of New Zealand
Beer is thought to have been introduced to Japan by Dutch traders in the 17th century Edo period. The country is one of the world’s most highly regarded beer destinations for its successful exports – the four major producers are Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo and Suntory. Citizens favour light Pilsner-style lagers, and cultivate lively craft beer bar scenes in cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Microbreweries have grown in popularity, in keeping with the tradition of artisanship associated with Japanese food and drink. Tours and tastings at popular breweries in Japan are choice activities for tourists – Sapporo Beer Museum, Asahi Suite Brewery in Osaka, Kirin Beer Factory in Yokohama, and Orion Happy Park in Okinawa welcome guests all year round.
A natural choice among the best beer destinations, Germany preserves many historic brewing traditions according to the Reinheitsgebot (also known as the three-ingredient rule). The Weihenstephan brewery, thought to be the oldest existing brewery in the world, has continued to produce beer for almost 1000 years. While Germany surprisingly doesn’t take the top spot for which country drinks the most beer, it has a very relaxed culture around enjoying a beverage or two in public spaces like parks, or while commuting home from work. The most popular domestic beer is light Pilsner, while Bock, Doppelbock and Eisbock are favourites for something stronger.
Enjoy traditional Bavarian food and sample some of Munich’s best beer when you travel with Trafalgar on the Best of Germany and Austria tour – Prost!
Still wondering which country drinks the most beer? The Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world – around 161 litres of beer per person on average per year! Beer is one of the most important exports in the Czech Republic, and its brewing history dates back to the 6th century. Pilsner type beers originated from the region and Pilsner Urquell is the most famous. Czech bars will often serve beers with much more foam than might be expected in other countries. The most common hladinka-style is served with around one quarter froth and mlìko-style pour is ostensibly a mug of pure foam, with just a little beer in the bottom of the glass. Waiting for the foam to subside results in a better tasting beer that is easier on the stomach.
How will you be quenching your thirst on International Beer Day? Are there any other destinations we should raise a glass to? Let us know in the comments! If our list has got you pouring over your travel plans, make sure to visit our website to plan your festivities with Trafalgar.