From the Mediterranean to the Caribbean to the far-flung Pacific, microbreweries are booming in unexpected places. Here are eight islands around the globe creating a buzz among beer lovers.
Taihu Bright Ale in Taiwan © Taihu Brewing
Tea and smoked plum brews in Taiwan
Taiwan's beer scene is blowing up big time and Taihu Brewing leads the way. It has a handful of cool-cat taprooms around Taipei, including one in a revamped Airstream trailer. Beer geeks pile in to drink sweet brews that incorporate local flavours such as barley tea, smoked plum and passion fruit. Taiwan Head Brewers innovates along similar lines with its malty Green Rain Tea Ale and zingy Winter Melon Ale. While the company doesn't have a taproom, its many concoctions are found in bars around the capital.
An hour's drive southeast of the city, Jim & Dad’s Brewing Company is a destination hotspot. Plop down at a communal table, gaze out the picture windows at the surrounding rice fields and settle in for a barley wine or Kumquat Pale Ale, brewed with fruit from a farm down the road.
Mango blondes and citrus saisons on Oahu
Brewmasters claim the purity of Hawaii's water and availability of tropical fruits makes for excellent beer here, and who's to argue? At Honolulu Beerworks the Pia Mahi’ai, a honey-citrus saison, is among the on-tap rock stars. It's easy to linger in the recycled-wood tasting room, sipping and nibbling smoky ahi (tuna) dip under the lazy-spinning fan. Same goes for nearby Beer Lab HI, a groovy industrial space where knee-wobbling stouts and triple IPAs flow in abundance.
To the east, the waterfront pub at Kona Brewing Company looks like a traditional Hawaiian canoe house. It sets the mood for the mango-based Kanaha Blonde Ale, Pineapple IPA and myriad other foamy treats.
See beer being made while you test out the brews at Toutatis © Toutatis
Village tipples and tapas in Mallorca
Set against a Mediterranean backdrop of almond groves, honey-hued villages and pine-coated mountains, Mallorca's breweries are charming as can be. Forastera brewery lies at the foot of the Serra de Tramuntana range in the little town of Alaró. Grab a seat on the couch in the homey, kid-friendly spot, and try Another F***ing IPA or the crisp amber or blond ales.
About 10km south, Cerveza Nau beckons. It produces just two beers – Rubia Bohemia (a pilsner) and Dama Blanca (a champagne-like wheat beer) – and is open only on Sundays. But hanging out in the shaded beer garden, chatting with the brewers and snacking on cheese, olives and sobrassada (pork and paprika sausage) makes it totally worth the trip. So is Toutatis, 12km east and tucked in an ancient stone barn where the Belgian brewer concocts suds like La Blanche, a wheat beer with jasmine, orange peel and coriander.
See what’s on tap at Category 12, Vancouver Island © Category 12 Brewing
Crazy hops and kelp on Vancouver Island
Beer buffs often cite Vancouver Island as Canada's craft beer capital, and sure enough, you can't swing a maple branch without striking a cool little spot making West Coast-style ales full of big, hoppy flavour.
In Victoria, Driftwood Brewery shows how it's done with Fat Tug IPA and various barrel-aged brews, available for sampling in the humble growler room. On the city's outskirts, Category 12 gets creative with Hiatus, a cucumber-lemon farmhouse ale, and heaps of mouth-walloping IPAs that fill glasses in the bright-orange tasting room. Meanwhile, Tofino Brewing Company makes use of its wilderness location by harvesting seaweed for its Kelp Stout (salty and chocolatey, in case you're wondering) and spruce tips for its Spruce Tree Ale, all flowing in the woodsy taproom.
Coconut stouts and coffee ales in Puerto Rico
While rum is the boozy beverage most associated with Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island has been getting its beer on too. FOK Brewing Co, 30km south of San Juan, draws a swigging crowd. The name stands for Fresh Of Keg, and the spartan warehouse taproom serves just that – from coffee-imbued Black IPA to passion fruit-tinged Pachanga – to go with food-truck snacks and occasional live music.
On the island's west side, beer enthusiasts hobnob at Del Barril, a small brewery known for its Cocotero – toasted coconut stout – and head-smashing Demolición ale (which tastes deceptively light for its 10% ABV measure). Salsa music drifts from the stereo in the al fresco taproom, while barbecue smells waft from the eatery next door.
Drink your brew at the source at T-Bone Brewing Co’s bar © T-Bone Brewing Co
Farm bars and mead makers in Tasmania
Tasmania gathers its 20-plus craft breweries into the Tasmanian Beer Trail. Start in Hobart at chic T-Bone Brewing Co to load up on ales, chocolate-milk stout and seasonal inventions like tangy Watermelon Wheat. Mosey on to Two Metre Tall, located on a working farm in the Derwent Valley; the friendly husband-and-wife brewers make Belgian-style fruit beers and wild ales with ingredients sourced from the premises. Then make your way to Seven Sheds, north in Railton; this wee brewery hides in a house and specialises in malty Kentish ale and honey-infused mead, best consumed at the outdoor tables overlooking the hop garden.
Prickly pear and hazelnut beers in Sicily
Sicily isn't just about sparkling seas and dramatic volcanoes – this is also an island for wild beer. Some 40 microbreweries have popped up and are making ales with the unique ingredients at hand. Take Trimmutura, a brewery in Palermo that uses locally-grown prickly pear in its Miscela blond ale. Light and slightly sour, it's an amazing thirst quencher.
Timilia Brewery, in the eastern city of Catania, cooks up its Red Ale with Sicilian blood oranges, which give it a spicy bite that's primo alongside the island's cheeses; while Epica adds hazelnuts farmed near its base in Sinagra to create Pan, a toasty brown ale. Most breweries don't have a taproom, so head to local pizzerias or a beer bar such as Palermo's library-like Birra e Baste to lay lips on the brews.
Try a heady brew or two up high in Singapore © LeVeL33
Skyscraping suds and uncommon infusions in Singapore
Many drinkers know tiny Singapore for its jumbo Tiger Brewery, where you can tour and guzzle the afternoon away. But the island nation offers much more. For atmosphere it's tough to beat RedDot Brewhouse, a gem that pours spirulina-infused green lager in a leafy, parrot-squawk-filled colonial bungalow. Then again, it doesn't get more exalted than Level 33, where IPA, lager, stout, porter and wheat beers emerge from the copper tanks in a view-tastic bar-restaurant 33 floors above the city.
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