You love the blog, so subscribe to the Beervana Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud today!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Another List

I just received a book in the mail--Ben McFarland's World's Best Beers. McFarland is the prolific UK writer who seems to have be eying Michael Jackson's now-vacant seat as dean of beer writers. This book is sort of his master's thesis, wherein he surveys beers from across the globe. (I'll do a review next week.) In any case, he offers his list of the top ten beer cities in the world, which is interesting ballast to the Men's Journal thought-free list I posted on Tuesday. As an interesting addition, he includes one beer as the city's icon.
1. Bamberg (Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier)
2. Bruges (Anything)
3. Munich (Forschungsbrauerei Pilsissimus)
4. London (Fuller's London Pride)
5. Boston (Harpoon Ale)
6. Portland (BridgePort IPA)
7. Prague (Plenz z tanku)
8. San Francisco (Anchor Steam)
9. Brussels (Cantillon Gueuze)
10. Cologne (Muhlen Kolsch)
While I generally find these lists uninteresting, this one sort of caught my eye. Bamberg? Bruges over Belgium Brussels? Prague seventh? (The cop-out on Bruge's beer excepted.) Owing to strange life circumstances, I've spent a lot of time in Asia and none in Europe. So this intrigues me. It subverts some of the reputations of the more famous cities. On the other hand, Boston, while one of the great cities of the world, rich in culture, heritage, and the arts, is a bad beer city. It's not even the best beer city in New Enland (the other Portland is better, and Burlington's at least as good).

European travelers--does this square with your experience?


  1. Err... what do you mean by 'Bruges over Belgium'? Isn't Bruges _in_ Belgium?

  2. "On the other hand, Boston, while one of the great cities of the world, rich in culture, heritage, and the arts, is a bad beer city."

    Better hope none of the rabid east coast beeradvocates read this or you'll never hear the end of it.


  3. I get a mention in the bibliography so the man is clearly clueless :P

    I think he does to a disservice to the Czech Republic -- the listings appear to be lager, lager and lager, while there's so much more to the Czech scene these days. He doesn't even list Kocour.

    My personal preference would be for Brussels over Bruges, but 't Brugs Beertje is a tough pub to argue with.

    However, I've no idea why you're questioning Bamberg. It's Europe's beer mecca.

    Asia gets some fairly rough treatment. I'd have put a line or two in about Singapore, at least.

    Otherwise, I think the book looks brilliant. I think the choice of highlighted breweries is mostly excellent, for this general part of the world. It all seems relatively cliché free, which is incredibly refreshing in a coffee table beer book.

  4. If Prague is only No. 7 it better be with a bullet.

    One of the first compliments (maybe Fred Eckhardt, maybe Michael Jackson) I remember reading about Portland (Oregon) was to compare it to Bamberg.

  5. Anon, I meant Brussels. Corrected in text.

  6. I spent six months in Prague in college and they definitely deserve a top-ten ranking (my own bias would have them first or second, but that's me). Most of the beers are big-time brews, but you can find smaller batch brews if you know where to look.

    2 points I'd like to make.
    1) My favorite Czech beer was called Velvet, which tastes like, well, Velvet and is served in .4L glasses. They also make cerne pivo, or black beer, which is sweet and just goes down like magic with a big hearty Central European meal.

    2) The major breweries in Czech Republic (Budvar, Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen, etc) focus on making one or two beers and making them really really well. So, while they may not have the complexity of something from a North American microbrewery, the beers they produce are of vastly higher quality than the major brewery swill in this country. It's an interesting comparison, I feel like the most comparable American brewery in terms of volume may be Boston Brewing Company, which is now trying to be everything to everyone.

  7. Dunno how long it is since you were there, mamradpivo, but Pilsner Urquell's quality has really suffered since SABMiller started running it, with the lagering time in particular slashed from 90 days to 35. A-B InBev's Staropramen is a shadow of its former self as well, I believe.

    The big brands in the Czech Republic Republic aren't that different from the big brands in the US. But the micros and brewpubs in both countries are where the real action is, IMO.

  8. nice list even I don't have knowledge about beer, I just drink, haha, :)

    -kristine alonzo

  9. yeah, BULLSHIT. if you're going to pick an iconic beer from boston, it would be sam adams boston lager.. speaking strictly in terms of regular local consumption. for beer geekery, there's much more, but it seems like you're only seeking out the textbook cases here.

  10. Having been to Belgium a few times I would actually pick Bruges over Brussels myself. It's a tough call really. Brussels has some of the mega beer bars but we found them so crowded as to be unpleasant experiences.. but then there were also the little gems hidden down tiny alleyways that most people would never find that were some of the best places to enjoy a beer. Bruge on the other hand was just a treat from the moment we stepped foot off the train until we left.

    I would actually say it's more appropriate to list Belgium as a whole over an individual city. If you stay in Brussels and have a rail pass, you can get basically anywhere within about 90 minutes (Bruges, Antwerp, etc) and each city has its own quirks in terms of beer scene.