Andy MurdockLonely Planet author
Travelers know that one of the best ways to get to know a place is to get to know the locals. This isn’t always an easy task. Where do you find locals, in particular locals that might be interested in chatting with a total stranger? In many cities, one of the best bets is to head for the pub. Beer is popular (the third most popular beverage in the world after water and tea), so wherever you find beer you’ll find people; plus it has a special knack for helping to break the ice with strangers.
Not all cities have good beer scenes; some, however, truly excel in the beer arena. What city is the best beer city in the world? Where can you find the best beers and the best pub culture? We picked six of the most renowned beer cities in the world and put the question to the well-traveled community on the Lonely Planet Facebook page and over 1200 responses quickly poured in. There were staunch defenders of each of the cities in the poll, but in the end Munich emerged victorious with 29% of the votes.
Munich was not a surprise champion: it’s home to perhaps the world’s most famous beer hall, the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, as well as the annual Oktoberfest, which has become almost synonymous with beer. Festival-goers consume over 6 million liters of beer over a 16-day period (which sounds like an obscene amount, but with roughly 6 to 7 million people attending each year, that only amounts to around 1 liter per person).
One of the beer tents from Oktoberfest
Portland, Oregon came in last in the poll, perhaps because fewer people have been to Portland to explore the beer scene, or possibly because the opinion of American beer remains low worldwide. American beer has long been the subject of ridicule — “Put it back in the horse!” the humorist H. Allen Smith once famously exclaimed — but the thriving microbrewery movement in the US has raised the bar in recent years. Portland has become the unofficial beer capital of the US with more breweries than any other city in the country, the Oregon Brewers Festival, one of the USA’s largest and best beer festivals, and one of the top hops-producing regions in the country in the neighboring Willamette Valley. If you’re planning some beer travel, add Portland to your list. In fact, to help you plan your trip, here’s a free PDF itinerary from Lonely Planet’s Pacific Northwest Trips: a whistle-stop brewery tour of some of the best breweries in Oregon – no car (or designated driver) necessary!
What’s on tap for your next beer adventure? What worthy beer cities were overlooked in this poll?