There’s a saying amongst travellers that if you want to get to know the locals, get to know their beer first.
Beer is the third most popular beverage in the world, beaten only by tea and water.
With this in mind, a great idea when traveling abroad is to work your way around some of the best cities in the world with the aim of visiting that special place where the finest brews are made.
Perhaps the best place to start is a country famous for its beer, Germany.
Indeed, it is here that you will find some of the best breweries in the world among the 1,300 in operation, the highest number in any one country bar the United States. The choices are therefore numerous.
Perhaps the Benedictine Abbey Weihenstephan Brewery in Freising, North Munich is the most interesting place to start.
Established in 725, this is said to be the oldest brewery in the world. Among its many favourite brews is Oettinger, which in 2004 surpassed Krombacher and became the best selling beer in the country.
Situated on the Holy Mountain that guards Lake Ammersee, the Andechs Monastery in Bavaria must come a close second for historic interest.
Indeed, this brewery has been something of a place of pilgrimage for beer culture enthusiasts since the Middle Ages.
For a small price, you can take the fascinating tour of the brewery and learn about the full history of the brewing process that has operated here for centuries.
You’ll also be able to see the state of the art facilities that have since replaced the previously used brewing equipment.
On a worldwide scale, however, perhaps the best known German beer is Becks. Brewed on the riverbanks of Bremen, Becks and its local counterpart, Haake Becks, have been created here since 1879.
Explore the whole process in a behind the scenes tour that will guide you through the brewing rooms to the fermentation tanks and malt silos, leaving you all the wiser as to how this beer has gained its worldwide reputation.
Another country that is notorious for its love of beers is the Netherlands.
Heineken continues to dominate the scene throughout the country and in Amsterdam you have the opportunity to literally live the Heineken experience.
A historic brewery and visitor centre, Amsterdam's Heineken Experience is open all year round.
Home to Heineken's operations since 1867, this brewery remained the beer's primary facility until 1988, when it was replaced by a modernised version built on the city's outskirts.
The Czech Republic
Neither of the above countries, however, can legitimately lay claim to inventing the stuff; this accolade rightfully goes to the Czech Republic.
The beer here is unbeatable throughout the country and is perhaps the reason why beer is consumed here more per capita than in other country in the world.
For the best of the breweries here, visit Pilsen, where you can find the legendary homes of two of the world's finest beers, Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus.
For something a little different, try the Koenhavn brew pub in the heart of Copenhagen.
In essence a ‘microbrewery', this is also a popular restaurant and bar that is ideal for sampling the on-site brew in the relaxing atmosphere of the bar's beer garden.
The entire workings are housed in a 17th century historic building. Tours are available, but you may find you spend most of the time getting more acquainted with the brewery's 11 different beers available on tap.
Alternatively, take off for Scotland where you can enjoy the local brew in one of the most unique and notorious settings around, the Loch Ness.
The area had lacked any brewing facilities until recently when two brothers, Allan and Stephen Crossland, decided to set up their own brewery in the nearby Benleva Hotel.
Choose from aptly named, unique brews such as LightNESS, HappyNESS, WilderNESS, MildNESS or new additions DarkNESS and RedNESS – just don't overdo it, or you will be going home with tales of strange monsters lurking in the waters of this famous Loch.
The United States
Let's face it, you can't compile any list on a worldwide scale without including the USA. Home to more breweries than anywhere else on the planet, it is not easy to choose which ones are the most worthy of a visit.
However, the home of the famous Budweiser brand is a good place to start and, of course, in the Coors Brewery the Americans have the biggest brewery in the world, naturally.
The Anheuser-Busch Merrimack brewery, situated in the fabulous scenic countryside of New England, remains a favourite among brewery enthusiasts.
Visit the home of the infamous Budweiser Clydesdales, Clydesdale Hamlet and take the tour of Brew Hall to find out how using only the highest quality ingredients make this beer one of the world's most favourite brews. Special events are held at the Merrimack Tour Center throughout the year.
So to the biggest brewery, the famous Coors Brewery in Golden, Denver is capable of brewing a staggering 22 million barrels a year. Tours around the brewery are free and take about 30 minutes.
Included in the tour are the brewhouse and malthouse in addition to the mind blowingly complex packaging centre. Here you can witness how over 100 work teams are employed to produce this brew, one of the most popular in the world.
Finally, many beer lovers the world over would agree that we have saved the best until last. St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin was established in 1759 by Arthur Guinness and has been the home of ‘the black stuff' ever since.
Fortunately, the site was leased for 9,000 years by Mr Guinness, so there is no sign that this brewery will relinquish its title of the largest brewer of stout worldwide just yet.
Indeed, covering some 64 acres, the home of Guinness was the largest of all breweries until 1914. Throughout the 19th century and early 20th, the brewery incorporated most of the surrounding buildings into its operations, making this one of the most extensive brewery tours you are ever likely to make.
Just don't forget to collect your free pint.
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