Ultimate 6er | 6 Beers Worth Traveling Internationally
Want to travel? “Traveling more” is a resolution for 25% of Americans for 2020. It’s not surprising, as travel is generally very fun and occasionally life-changing. Now is the time to look past some of your other, less-worthy resolutions (see you in 2021 eating healthy and saving money!) and commit to being Dora the Beer Explorer in 2020.
We’re here to highlight some awesome experiences with beer that require getting off your sofa or out of your usual radius of local breweries. Sure, you could shell out beaucoup bucks to get your hands on some of these listed below, but where’s the fun in that? Completing 1-6 of these in 2020 will be much more satisfying than adding a little to your child’s college fund, trust me.
Westvleteren 12 | In De Vrede, Westvleteren, Belgium
We start the list with one of the oldest-school beer pilgrimages. The legend of Westvleteren 12, and it’s place on the top of most “best beer” lists, was unquestioned until a wide release of the beer in the US in 2012 removed some of the mystique. 8 years later, scarcity returns, and those new to craft beer have not had the privilege of sampling the finest of the Trappist ales. Westy is still notoriously hard to come across, with purchase at the abbey the only legitimate way to get your hands on the label-less bottles.
In years past, the process to properly acquire the beer (note: not pay $15+ a bottle at a second-hand shop in Bruges) has become much easier. Gone are the days of calling in weeks in advance during an hour-long window, hoping one of the monks answers the phone at the precise time you call. You can now register in advance online, making the process much easier and less unpredictable.
The best change, though, is the existence of In De Vrede. Here not only can you usually purchase small quantities of to-go bottles, but you can always find fresh beers onsite to consume. While the cafe may be a little modern in comparison to the idealistic picture in your head of clinking steins with monks singing Gregorian chants, all expectations are drowned and forgotten in deliciousness as you enjoy one of the world’s finest beers. I know the Belgian quad isn’t the hippest of styles unless it’s BA w/at least three adjuncts, but you will enjoy each sip, meditating on hundreds of years of brewing excellence.
The pride of Sint Sixtus isn’t the only reason to make this trip. Whether it’s the incredible De Struise taproom just a few miles away (that is open 4 hours a week…), or any number of famous breweries and beer spots in the country, your palate will be assaulted by deliciousness in Belgium. For one of the other must see spots, see #2 below…
Bokkereyder | In De Verzekering Tegen De Grote Dorst, Eizeringen, Belgium
If you haven’t kept up with your elementary Flemish, the above translates into “In the Insurance against Great Thirst”. If you are a lambic or sour fan, your thirst will surely be quenched in this establishment. Only open on Sundays, the menu here will drop a Ciccerone’s jaw faster than a 2 a.m. Cruchwrap Supreme after a bottle share. Vintages of Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen, and other notable lambic producers fill a tome of offerings, with your budget acting as the only limiter of enjoyment.
One reason to absolutely not miss this bar is that it is one of the only places on the planet that receives a steady supply of Bokkereyder. If your chin is currently without drool, know that Bokkereyder is one of the most limited producers of fine sour beers on the planet, a phantasm that occasionally graces the world with beers at festivals but rarely ever for sale. If you want the closest thing to a guarantee in this world of having a whole bottle to yourself, Eizeringen, Belgium may be your best bet. I was lucky enough to share 4 different bottles with some fellow Lambic enthusiasts on my last visit here, and the only regret I have was that I shared the bottles.
Cantillon Blåbær | Himmeriget, Copenhagen, Denmark
One lambic that not even IDVTGDG will have on its menu is the infamous blueberry Lambic produced each year by Cantillon. Regularly selling for hundreds of dollars on the open market, I often wonder why people don’t apply the purchase price towards booking a flight to Copenhagen where you can have the bottle, plus visit one of the world’s best beer cities.
Like Santa, Blåbær Day only comes once a year , but Himmeriget generally keeps a stock of the fabled lambic for visitors to enjoy on-site. Not only do they have multiple years of this blueish-purple liquid gold cellared, but Himmeriget is an all-around top-tier beer bar. Accompanied in Copenhagen by great establishments like Bar 1420, Restaurant Barr, and the seemingly endless supply of Mikkeller-affiliated bars in the city (not to mention MBCC, the Comic-Con of European beer festivals), you will drink like you just won the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Come for the Blåbær, but be wowed by the culinary and beer prowess of capital of Denmark.
Andechs Doppelbock | Andech’s Monastery, Bayern, Germany
If you had to take an antacid after reading about the Lambics above, this jaunt into the German countryside for some good old-fashioned lagers might be exactly what you are looking for. Bavaria is already a destination for many beer drinkers, as Oktoberfest has provided us with fun times longer than people have been able to ride bicycles. But if being in the middle of the weird cultural cyclone of way-too-many-19 year-olds on a study abroad weekend trip, and old, polka-loving Germans gets your head spinning, why don’t you get a bit of fresh air outside of the city?
Andech’s Benedictine monastery has over 1,000 years of history, and the journey there is part of the fun. Take the bus out of Munich, ramble by some cows, and reward yourself with some tasty traditional German brews. A mind-clearing hike will be just what der doktor ordered after all the pork knuckles and lederhosen.
Unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell | Pilsner Urquell Brewery, Plzen, Czech Republic
Wait, you’re asking me to hop aboard a transatlantic flight to drink a beer that comes in the Cost Plus “Beers of the World” 10 pack? Why yes, I am, and I will take no judgment from you, dear reader, who sits in lines for hours at a time to buy overpriced IPA cans to use as trade bait for other cans of a similar profile. If you’re not yet offended, hear me out.
The Pilsner Urquell tour is the best brewery tour that I have ever been on. This is ground zero for the beer that revolutionized the game 178 years ago, and you will be transfixed by the history presented over this 100-minute tour. While you will see the steps taken to modernize and produce vast quantities of beer, you will also get to see and taste the beer as it originally was produced. This unfiltered, unpasteurized relic of brewing excellence, pulled straight from the wooden vats, in infinitely drinkable. Luckily you can take some fresh growlers to go as you leave the Wonka-esque factory. If they survive the train ride without being consumed, you’re a better person than I am.
Plzen is a quick trip on the train from Munich, or an even quicker trip from the lovely Prague. You can walk from the train station to the brewery, and easily stumble back to the train later. Tours are held multiple times a day in multiple languages, but be sure to check the schedule online ahead of going, and get there early because many of the tours do sell out.
Tusker Lager | Masai Mara, Kenya
This list has meandered from seeking out bottles worth $$$ to finally ending here, at a simple, massed produced lager. Drinking a Tusker is more about the experience than goes along with it rather than the beer itself, even though I must confess that Tusker is one of the better cheap beers on the planet. Brewed with Kenyan ingredients and distributed wholly in Kenya, it’s as ubiquitous in the country as the wildebeest roaming the savanna. It’s refreshing, clean, and perfect for a day out exploring.
The best thing about cracking open a Tusker is doing it in a beautiful locale. It’s the perfect accompaniment to tracking down a simba, or relaxing in a lodge overlooking the Masai Mara, or climbing the slopes of Kilimanjaro. You remember what beer is for, to be enjoyed as a companion on adventures, or as a social lubricant to a fun night with friends around a fire.
Drinking Tusker for a week on safari helped me to leave behind the haughtiness that often comes with the craft beer culture, and not worry about what I was drinking but rather enjoy the experience. Whether that was being crowded around the one TV in miles to watch a Premier League match with die-hard fans who have never set foot in Eurpoe, or watching the sun set after seeing a cheetah pounce on its prey, I have a large cache of incredible memories where Tusker is looming in the sides of the frame.
And when you get to the airport for your journey home, a case of Tusker can accompany your for around $24. Not a bad souvenir from your travels.
What’s your favorite beer you can only get by traveling abroad? Leave a note in the comments and let us know!