“Prost!” “Salud!” “Sláinte!” “Na Zdravi!”
These days, we understand that beer can be just as interesting, nuanced, and complex as wine. Most of these beers tend to be made by small, craft breweries that don’t necessarily have the reach that their larger counterparts do. And, while it might not always be the most fashionable, sometimes it’s the beer that you’ll find in every watering hole that can grant you the most insight into a new place.
Top Picks for You
Weihenstephan Wheat Beer
Naturally, the country that brought you Oktoberfest and the biergarten is going to have a storied brewing history. And they probably don’t come more storied than Weihenstephan. In the first half of the 8th century, a group of Benedictine monks established a monastery in Bavaria, Germany. The earliest evidence of beer being brewed at the site comes from a document from 768 that refers to hops being grown near the monastery. And while the Abbey was dissolved in 1803, Weihenstephan remains the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world. Though they put out several types of beer, their wheat beer makes for a classic choice.
Per capita, Namibia is the eighth highest beer consuming country in the world so, naturally, you’ll find an array of options brewed in this southern African nation. Perhaps the most ubiquitous, however, is Windhoek. Windhoek adheres to Reinheitsgebot, a purity law which states that beer can only be brewed using barley, hops, and water. Nothing more, nothing less. While this is no longer the law, it’s clear that you don’t need much else to make a refreshing beer.
“My Country, My Beer.” That’s the motto of this beer which is named for the iconic Angkor Wat temple complex. It’s a fitting slogan for a beer that is very readily available throughout Cambodia. This pilsner has a smooth, full-bodied flavor that’s light enough that you can easily drink one (or two) after taking a break from the heat.
In Panama, one of the most widely available beers is Atlas. This is a light, straightforward lager. It’s greatest asset is the fact that it’s highly drinkable, which is exactly what you’re going to want whether you’re spending your day on the beach or winding down after a day of exploring a little more inland.
This pilsner is made by Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma. Though this Monterrey based brewery is currently a subsidiary of Heineken, it was originally founded in the late 19th century. And not much has changed about one of their earliest beers, a Czech-style pilsner called Bohemia. It has the light approachability you want from a lager, but it also has a bit more hoppiness to it compared to other easy-drinking beers.
INSIDER TIPThe makers of this beer recommend pairing it with spicy or salty foods.
Plenty of great and even widely available beers are brewed and popular in Ireland, but it’s Guinness that remains the reigning emblem of Irish beer. It accounts for approximately a quarter of all beer sales in Ireland. And even if you’ve had plenty of “that black stuff” in your hometown, you really do have to have it in Ireland because it simply tastes better. No, but really, it’s been proven by science. Part of it is the ambiance but part of it is also that there’s a specific art to how a Guinness is poured and bartenders in Irish pubs are more likely to have mastered that art than their non-Irish counterparts.
WHERE: South Africa
In South Africa, the beer market is dominated by South African Breweries. Although they make several popular beers, their signature is their Castle Lager. Castle Lager’s history goes back to the late 1800s when it was sold to miners during the Johannesburg Gold Rush. And while many popular lagers may not get the same critical attention as, say, notable craft brews, Castle Lager won the “Best Bottled Beer” category at the International Brewing Industry Awards in 2000.
Coopers Sparkling Ale
By now, we’ve all learned that Fosters isn’t so much Australian for “beer” as it is Australian for “beer that is popular internationally but not in Australia.” Actually, a more pertinent question is probably “what’s Queensland for beer?” or “what’s New South Wales for beer?” since each state has its own specific loyalties. However, one popular beer is not only made by Australia’s oldest brewery—it’s also the country’s largest Australian owned brewery. Bottles of their Sparkling Ale have their signature sediment and notes of fruit.
Any place where beer is even remotely popular has some kind of craft brewing scene. But perhaps the most commonplace order you could place at a Belgian bar is for a full-bodied, rich flavored artisanal beer with a high alcohol content. But even in Belgium, the straightforward pale lager Jupiler accounts for a huge chunk of the Belgian beer market. While their pale lager may not come with the complex flavors or intriguing backstory of being brewed by Trappist monks, it nonetheless makes for a refreshing drink.
WHERE: Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is the country that, per capita, consumes the most beer in the world. But if we’re to land on a quintessential beer it has to be Pilsner Urquell. Because it’s not just quintessential for the Czech Republic, it’s quintessential to the global beer market. The first-ever pilsner gets its name from its home, the city of Plzeň. So many of the world’s most popular beers are light lagers that make for refreshing easy-drinking, and they have this Bohemian brew to thank.