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101 Beer Experiences: Follow the leaders

Brewers, authors and experts share their favorite (sometimes under-the-radar) beer events and places to visit.
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Photo of German Zoiglstube by Joe Stange

Photo of German Zoiglstube by Joe Stange

When we want to know about the world’s best beer experiences, we ask the brewers, authors and experts we trust. Now you too can steal their insider tips:

“Germany’s genuine Oberpfalz Zoiglbier is made in communally owned breweries using traditional methods, matured for six weeks or more to ensure consistent quality, and sold out of the family home without advertising. Zoiglbier is a time-intensive operation that the commercial world has largely given up for profitability.” —Michael James, a photographer and web developer who photographed the book “Birra in Franconia,” authored by Manuele Colonna. In the Oberpfalz, visit pubs (marked with a six-pointed star), which are traditionally part of a family’s home, opened once per month to welcome villagers and wayfarers. Expect a lot of wood, antlers on the walls, tables shared with strangers/new friends and inexpensive plates of smoked meats, stinky cheeses and crusty pretzels.

“Part beer festival, part lecture series, June’s Carnivale Brettanomyces in Amsterdam is one of the few, if not the only, events in Europe that has spontaneous/wild beers as its core subject. It has both artistic and scientific sides of these beers being explored. Everything indicates that this event will get bigger and more professional. The bars, bottle shops, the people involved—brewers, homebrewers, journalists, writers and enthusiasts—all of them have some great contribution, be it special beers, technologies, history, curiosities or brainstorming.” —Thomas Hübbe, a biochemical engineer and brewing student from Brazil. Come to listen, learn and taste; savvy pubs throughout the city center participate by organizing related events and tapping strange brews.

“I studied molecular biology in college. During my senior year at UC Santa Barbara, I went to visit my uncle in Colorado, and he took me on a tour of New Belgium Brewing Co. While I was on that tour, I had the epiphany that brewing is using the science of biology to create art, to create beer that tasted so much better than the stuff I was drinking at the time! When I got back to school, I got a homebrew kit and started homebrewing with my roommate and best friend, Jay Goodwin. Who knows if Jay and I would have started our brewery six years later had I not gone on that tour at New Belgium?” —Alex Wallash, co-founder, The Rare Barrel; Berkeley, California

“The Saratoga Beer Festival, held each August, is the oldest brew festival in Wyoming. The brewers compete for the Steinley Cup trophy, which features a stein at the top. The winning brewery has to march the trophy around that night to each of the bars in town and fill it with whiskey. It’s really something. Saratoga also happens to have many natural hot springs, so you can imagine some of the sights this trophy has seen.” —Jared Long, head brewer, Altitude Chophouse & Brewery; Laramie, Wyoming

Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival [in fall] is now becoming one of the largest festivals in Europe, though you would never know it because of the clever layout spread across two linked buildings. There’s genius in the way they can show dozens of Swedish brewers as they are, and who can dislike a beer festival with built-in whisky chasers, reached by boat from the centre of town.” —Tim Webb, co-author of “The World Atlas of Beer”

 

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