Will travel for beer: 7 brews worth seeking out

June 23, 2015                 4m read time
Harry Guinness

Travel and beer—two great tastes that go great together. To whet your thirst and your wanderlust, below is a sampling of brews from around the globe. Some have been on tap for centuries. Others are scrappy upstarts. But they are all well worth a pint near their home or yours. Which beers would you travel the world for?

A good beer not only quenches your thirst, it often bubbles up from—and seeps into—the local culture. Thanks to the craft beer movement, imbibers everywhere are beginning to recognize that a quality brew can match the depth, complexity, and terroir of any wine. And tapping into this heady heritage can make for an even richer drinking experience. With that in mind, here's a look seven beers worth sipping in their birthplace.

1. The Alchemist Heady Topper

The Alchemist is a small Vermont brewery that makes one thing and one thing very well, their signature beer: Heady Topper. For the last two years, it's held the privileged position of being the highest-rated beer in the world on Beer Advocate.

If you want to try Heady Topper, you have to move fast. Only 1,800 cases of The Heady are produced each week and it's sold through a limited number of resellers within 25 miles of the Waterbury brewery. Every week, a new batch hits the shelves and beer fans desperately hunt it down. Within a few days, it's gone until the following week. It's so highly sought after that there's now a black market for it.

So what makes this double IPA so popular? The complex hoppy flavor that, amazingly, comes with almost no bitterness. If you're ever near Vermont, make sure to try The Heady.

2. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier

Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier comes from the oldest still operating brewery in the world: the Bavarian State Brewery. Since 1040 beer has been brewed on the site, originally by monks but now by the local government. Yes, in Germany the government brews beer.

Wheat beers are a major part of German brewing culture and the Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier is a classic example of the kind. It's a full bodied, golden-yellow beer that tastes faintly of bananas. Nearly 1,000 years of brewing experience comes through with every sip.

3. Guinness Draught

Sorry, but it had to be done. How could someone whose surname is Guinness write an article about the best beers and not include their namesake? Despite my massive biases, Guinness Draught truly merits inclusion.

In 1759, my great-great...great-grand-uncle Arthur Guinness opened a brewery. The drink he first brewed has now become the quintessential stout. Although it looks black, Guinness is actually a deep ruby red and tastes of malt and caramel.

No beer has ever equalled its cultural status. The ancient Irish harp logo of the Irish Government is the mirror image of Guinness'. When the Irish Free State was founded in 1922, it had to seek permission from Guinness to use it; the brewery had trademarked the image 50 years prior.

4. BrewDog Punk IPA

Since being founded in 2007, BrewDog, an upstart Scottish brewery, has racked up customers and awards in equal measure. As part of a, self-proclaimed, "insurgency against mass-produced, lowest common denominator beer," these Scots have crafted some great new brews.

The best of them is the beer that started it all: BrewDog's India Pale Ale, Punk IPA. With a blend of six different hops, Punk IPA is a wonderfully complex beer that tastes of tropical fruit like grapefruit and pineapple.

Classic beers certainly have their place, but BrewDog's revolution is threatening to tear down existing empires. Budweiser beware.

5. Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale

If you call your beer Arrogant Bastard, it would want to be good. When you also write "You're not worthy" on the front of the bottle, it would want to be very, very good. Anything less than near-perfection would have Stone Brewing's ale written off as a joke and a bad marketing experiment. Fortunately for everyone, it delivers.

Stone Brewing is one of the biggest craft breweries in the U.S. Founded in Southern California in 1997, it's railed against the dominion of bad beer ever since.

Their bottled Liquid Arrogance is their best brew. An American strong ale, Arrogant Bastard packs a punch weighing in with 7.2% ABV. It tastes suitably dark, with notes of chocolate and tobacco. The only question that remains is, are you worthy of drinking it? 

6. Bloch Brewing Company Four Seasons Ale

Asia isn't known for its beer, but Bloch Brewing Company is doing its best to change that. The Taiwan brewery's Four Seasons Ale picked up Best Bitter at the 2014 World Beer Awards, beating out countless brews from more established companies. Its rise to the top was swift: the brewery only opened in 2011.

At 3.4% ABV, the traditional Amber Ale has the lowest alcohol content on this list, but that doesn't detract from its flavor. Made with the finest raw materials shipped in from around the world, the Four Seasons Ale tastes of honey and lemon.

Like The Heady, you'll need to go out of your way to try Four Seasons. It's only available in Taiwan and Hong Kong at the moment, but, if their star continues to climb, it will be no time before specialist shops are stocking it worldwide.

7. Murray’s Wild Thing Imperial Stout

Australian beer isn't limited to Fosters. There's now a big craft beer scene Down Under. Murray's Craft Brewing Company—which is possibly the most Australian name imaginable—makes some of the best.

Inspired by the stouts of the Russian Imperial Court, Murray’s Wild Thing Imperial Stout is something special. At 10% ABV, it's almost three times as strong as the Four Seasons. Deep black in color, it tastes strongly of dark chocolate.

Wild Thing's slogan is "It's not for everybody," and with that sort of strength and flavor profile, they're not wrong. Drink it with caution.

Harry Guinness

Harry Guinness (yes, that is his real last name) is a writer and photographer from Dublin, Ireland. He suffers from a terrible allergy to what someone with moral character might call “work.”

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