Beer is probably the smallest, most common denominator of the backpacking community. Travelers get to know each other over a pint, decide to make a trip together in the course of a few sips and cling their bottles to say goodbye after a life-changing journey.
Some beers, like Heineken for example, are served literally everywhere and I find it kind of sad that you travel to a very distant place on this planet, meet fascinating people from foreign cultures yet drink these same interchangeable brews all the time. So instead, next time you order, why not try one of the local craft beer specialities? Craft beer represents a hand-made product and gives you an authentic taste of the region you happen to be in. Moreover, you support local brewers and thereby help diversity to stay alive.
In this article, I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite craft beers that I’ve sampled throughout my travels.
Side note: In case you’re next trip is still months ahead, you might as well get one of those liquid delicacies at your local craft beer dealer to put your palate into travel mode.
1. Icelandic White Ale – Einstök
Iceland sports a range of truly great beers. One that really blew my mind is the Icelandic White Ale by Einstök. It’s a beer that feels rather light, which made it highly popular with my female travel companion. So guys, if you want to be successful in a bar in Iceland, my tip is to invite your love interest to a glass of Icelandic White Ale. If you want to come off as a pro, about the notes of coriander and orange zest that are the essential ingredients of this brew.
2. Highhops 6 – Brouwerij Maximus
A fruity, well rounded India Pale Ale from Utrecht, Netherlands. This pleasantly bitter beer pairs nicely with the dutch street food classics such as Kibbeling or Frikandel.
Good to know: The brewery Maximus is open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays. Say hi, next time you’re in Holland and make sure you get a pint of Highhops 6.
3. Methusalem – The Monarchy
A cooperation by brew masters Sebastian Sauer and Fritz Wülfing – two legendary craft pioneers from Germany. Sauer brewed his first beer at the age of 22. He still lives and works in Germany but his beer brand Freigeist has become a surprise hit especially in the United States.
Today, aged 29, Sauer is best known for bringing long-forgotten recipes back to life. Methusalem is a brilliant example for this. It is a beer in the “Adam” style (that is a sour Altbier). It hasn’t been brewed anywhere in the world since the sixties. This is your chance to get a taste of beer history and indulge in creative German brewing culture.
4. Phönix – Pinzga’
What a smack in the face this is. A bold, unconventional beer made from whisky malt. Appealingly strange, heavy and intense, it guarantees that your palate won’t forget this trip to Austria. … and I mean that in a good way.
5. Amarillo – Oppigards
I actually drank this Swedish beer on a trip to Amsterdam. Ever since, I wonder where the brewery’s hometown, Hedemora, is located. As soon as I find out, I will travel there and order another Amarillo. This IPA is quite memorable as it stacks serious amounts of hop flavors. With a bit of concentration, you will taste caramel and citrus. At this point, the beer leaves you with a bitter finish and you may even grasp that note of cut grass. Not kidding, this one is a keeper.
6. Flor de la Vida – Edge
Edge is the brainchild of two Americans living in Barcelona. Flor de la Vida is their American Pale Ale. It pours a light golden body with a creamy white head. It reminds me of summer nights in the capital of Catalunya and is a great choice to start your night out in this poetic and lively city.
7. Big Wave – Kona
Based in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island, the exotic location already makes Kona a one of a kind brewery. Since 1995 the company supplies Hawaii with local beer and all of Kona’s brews and designs are inspired by its direct surroundings. Their Golden Ale “Big Wave” for instance is a smooth, sunny beer with a beautiful artwork depicting a logboat scene.
I’ve also heard good things about the company’s dedication to sustainability ranging from fundraising for local environmental organizations to simple things like the use of biodegradable cups at events or collecting condensation from air conditioning systems to be used for landscaping irrigation. I value this especially as a traveler who’s trying to leave the world better than we found it. So on your next trip to Honolulu show what you’re made of and catch a wave of the Kona’s Golden Ale.
8. Heroica Red Ale – Steamworks
Canada’s only steam-generated brewery is located in Vancouver’s historic Gastown. Great visuals make their bottles an appealing gift to bring home. Their creative recipes offer a good occasion to team up with other travelers for a spontaneous tasting. Fasten your taste buds for experiences like the Jasmine IPA, which is blended with jasmine flowers, the dry hopped and unfiltered Heroica Red Ale or the Belgian Style Abbey Ale featuring Candi Sugar.
9. Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale – Kiuchi Brewery
For travelers with an interest in history, this is your chance to dive into it since the origins of the Kiuchi Brewery date back to 1823. Nowadays, the brewery is known for its unconventional beers made from special ingredients such as red rice, espresso beans or real ginger. My favorite is the Red Rice Ale, which is super refreshing and finely nuanced.
10. Going Hazel Nuts – Bierol
Bierol is an Austrian craft label run by the two young guns Christoph Bichler and Maximilian Karner. In 2012 Bichler took over his father’s traditional brewery and soon used it as a platform to spin off his own brand “Bierol”. Since the official start in 2014, Bierol has taken Austria’s beer scene by storm. From Schwoich to Vienna, craft aficionados sing enthusiastic odes to these creative beers even when sober.
My favorite product: Going Hazel Nuts. A nutty crowd-pleaser that will see you longing for more.
So there you have it, 10 of my favorite craft beers have taken us on a journey around the world…. well sort of. Narrowing down to just 10 beers was no easy task and there are plenty of other great ales that I enjoy so please go easy in the comments. While you’re at it, tell me about your favorite craft beers.