Ask just about anyone to name three things about German culture and odds are good that beer will make the list. Which is to be expected given the fact that these are the same Europeans who created Oktoberfest—essentially the world’s largest celebration of the drink. Not to mention that apart from Denver or maybe Plzeň, few cities work as hard as Munich does to promote local beer. Case in point: Hofbräuhaus, an institution for more than 400 years. In other words, beer is more than just another example of a cultural touchstone; for Germans, beer is their apple pie.
But Rheinland isn’t the only place to go for a few steins of amber ale or golden lager. Far from it. Just as there are dozens of German Christmas markets outside of Germany, so too had the traditional beer hall been exported around the world. Anywhere you travel today, beer in all of its many varieties is a popular drink. It’s meant to be consumed in groups, and groups —especially big ones—require more than just a keg or two. Enter the beer hall. Bigger than a pub and more boisterous than a restaurant, the beer hall is a global phenomenon enjoyed by imbibers from the Baltic Sea to the Gulf of Thailand. So the challenge isn’t necessarily finding a beer hall, but rather deciding on which one to visit. Here are some of the best outside of Germany.
Radegast Hall & Biergarten – Brooklyn, New York
At the end of the 19th century, New York was awash in breweries—businesses typically owned by German immigrants. Today it only has a handful, but German styles remain as easy to come by as they were over a century ago. This is thanks to a number of newer bars serving weissbiers, schwarzbiers, and altbiers; so many that you’d be forgiven for expecting to find Little Bavaria on a map of Gotham City. A sprawling space on the corner of North 3rd and Berry Street in Williamsburg, Radegast is one such newcomer. But with nine German beers on tap and many more in bottles, this beer hall makes no attempt to disguise its dedication to the Old Country.
>> For more on where to drink in NYC, check out our New York Travel Guide.
Kunstmann Cervecería – Valdivia, Chile
Valdivia, Chile might seem like a long way from Hallertau, the world’s largest hop-growing region in southern Germany, but you wouldn’t know it from tasting the beers here. Sure, the honey beer is somewhat atypical for a family brewery with German roots, but their dark, full-bodied bock and their copper-colored weissbier would fit right in alongside European cousins. Kuntsmann does export their products, but the cervecería outside of town is still the best place to sample their suds. They also sponsor an annual bierfest (or fiesta de la cerveza) that includes music, dancing, a beer-drinking contest, as well as the crowning of a Beer King and Queen.
>> Check here for cheap flights to Chile.
Bier Halle – Glasgow, Scotland
No stranger to beer itself, Scotland is famous for rich, malty ales—drinks that offer a bit of protection from colder nights in the Highlands. On Gordon Street in Scotland’s largest city however, Bier Halle chooses to serve pints of Furstenberg, Weihenstephan Weisse, and Paulaner München instead of “the same limited choice of beers” available elsewhere in Glasgow. As further proof of their source of inspiration, they also offer bratwurst (free before 9pm if you order a jug of draft beer), and currywurst, one of Germany’s most popular fast foods. The large beer selection at this subterranean space makes it a popular draw, so arrive early to grab a bench.
>> To plan your trip, head over to our Scotland Travel Guide.
Beer House – Tallinn, Estonia
As one of the current European Capitals of Culture, Tallinn is certain to see a spike in the number of visitors it gets in 2011. Taking in the myriad sights and sounds of the Estonian capital can be thirsty work, however, which is why it’s lucky that Beer House opened several years ago in the Old Town. Ranging from a summery, light helles to a deep brown dunkel made with coffeemalt, the six of the seven beers brewed by Eve Toomela are all German in character. Overall, the microbrewery maintains a traditional appearance too, with rustic iron chandeliers and wooden furniture, although a few tables do have one modern innovation: their own beer taps.
Paulaner’s Bräuhaus – Cape Town, South Africa
One of 15 beer halls Paulaner owns and operates outside of Germany, the Cape Town location is a particularly scenic spot to enjoy a mug of an unfiltered Münchner or Maibock. And with a German-trained brewmaster on staff, Paulaner’s Bräuhaus might also be one of the best places to get these styles outside of Bavaria. Annual events like Salvatorfest and Oktoberfest bring the crowds, but hearty food and beer produced according to the specification of one of Germany’s largest breweries make it a worthwhile destination year round. Order a plate of Nuremberg sausages with your beer and enjoy views of the harbor from the Victoria & Albert Waterfront.
>> Find more things to see and do in Cape Town on our South Africa Travel Guide.
Tawandang German Brewery – Bangkok, Thailand
With an exterior that resembles an enormous barrel, it’s hard to miss Tawandang German Brewery on Rama 3 in downtown Bangkok. And with three very good signature beers (lager, weissen, and dunkel) made on the premises, it’s also hard to compare to the average Thai watering hole offering the same parade of taste-alike lagers. Served with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, Tawandang’s Deep Fried Pork Knuckle might be its “most illustrious dish,” but the yeasty weissen pairs nicely with seafood entrees while the dunkel holds up well against some of their spicier Thai options. Live entertainment nightly means reservations are usually a good idea.
Sapporo Beer Garden – Hokkaido, Japan
After learning his trade in Germany, Japanese brewmaster Seibei Nakagawa began selling Sapporo lager in 1877, becoming the country’s first commercial brewer. Today Sapporo is an international brand, although many of their beers aren’t shipped abroad. Which means that the only way to try the slightly sweet, golden yellow Sapporo Classic is to make a trip to Hokkaido. Upon arriving at the enormous (and eponymous) Beer Garden, you’ll be encouraged to drink your fill and eat mountains of mutton at the Genghis Khan Buffet. While there, combine a visit to this former factory-turned beer hall with a free tour of Sapporo’s small beer museum nearby.
>> Now, check out seven simple ways you can help earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan, and then read about ways to save money on your next trip to Japan.
Löwenbräu Keller – Sydney, Australia
In spite of Australia’s strong ties with British culture, a taste of authentic German beer is not as hard to come by here as you might imagine. So for a somewhat kitschy dose of Bavaria Down Under, head to Sydney’s Löwenbräu Keller. Start with a half liter of Hofbräu Original (yes, that Hofbräu) to slowly taste your way through German brewing history. Next, order a glass of the Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel, a creamy, tawny-colored wheat beer with a sweet finish. Or, if you can’t decide where to start, go with a bier flight of three different styles. Avoid a headache the next day by soaking up the alcohol with a salty soft pretzel or a serving of spätzle.
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