The first Friday in August marks International Beer Day, a time to enjoy a pint with friends and enjoy both the company and the craft that went into our favorite brews. For the thirsty travelers who would go to the ends of the earth for a nice glass of beer, these are some of the best beer journeys available.
The long Belgian brewing tradition dates to at least the crusades, when monks sold their creation to raise funds. Think of it as a medieval bake sale. Over the centuries, the Belgians have perfected the craft and the nation of about 12 million people has more than 400 breweries and 1,600 different beers. UNESCO has even included Belgian beer culture on its list of “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” A beer trip through the country includes the Delirium beer hall in Brussels, a visit to a Trappist abbey/brewery in Rochefort, a tasting of brews normally reserved for monks near Chimay and De Halve Maan in Bruges, home to the world’s first beer pipeline. The best part is how well the beers pair with those famous fries.
The Pacific Northwest
A major chunk of the world’s hop production comes from the Pacific Northwest, and boy do they like their beers hoppy. Portland has the most microbreweries per capita of any city in the world, and it might not even be the most beer-loving city in Oregon. Bend lays claims to the title of craft beer capital of the West. The Bend Ale Trail takes visitors through seven brewing territories and 30 breweries in all. The love for beer doesn’t stop at the Washington border, as the state is home to 425 breweries and several annual beer festivals.
Germany & Central Europe
Cheating a bit here with multiple countries, but there are just so many great beer destinations in Europe! Plus, with select beer enthusiast river cruises on Virtuoso-preferred Avalon Waterways, you can cover several hop stops without having to repack. The 16-day Enchanted Europe for Beer Enthusiasts itinerary from Budapest to Basel visits five countries, with beer-themed excursions in each. A knowledgeable beer expert joins the second portion of the cruise to host lectures, beer tasting, and food-and-beer-pairings for an authentic river cruise experience. Shorter itineraries go from Nuremberg to Basel and include the option for two days in Munich and its famous beer halls
The Land Down Under sports more than 500 breweries. You can get to know Melbourne, Australia’s second city, through its breweries on Virtuoso-preferred Urban Adventures’ Craft Beer Lovers’ Guide to Melbourne Experience. A tour of Sydney’s inner-west microbreweries shows off what’s new in the country’s bustling capital. Even the Margaret River region in Western Australia, long known for its wines, has a burgeoning craft beer scene. Darwin has an annual beer can regatta, with locals buildings boats from beer cans. The folks down there will show you what’s really Australian for beer.
Though the caipirinha is still the national drink, Brazil ranks third in the world in beer consumption. Virtuoso-preferred Blumar has culinary tours featuring the likes of established brands Skol, Brahma, Antarctica and Cerpa. Originally influenced by a large German immigrant population, the microbrew scene is now setting its own trends. So-called gypsy brewers make and package their own concoctions borrowing equipment from big breweries. With tropical fruits not found elsewhere, Brazil’s breweries (which number more than 200) can play with unique flavors.