Can’t swing a big-budget trip to sip like a European? Check out these authentic Old World experiences right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
Bucolic farmhouse breweries in Belgium’s Wallonia region are famous for their sessionable saisons—rustic, thirst-quenching brews packed with bright lemon and peppery spice, originally crafted in the summer for weary farmhands. GET IT HERE: Oxbow Brewing isn’t a farm, but the farmhouse ales it crafts inside its barn brewery on a remote 18 acres of Maine are bona fide Belgian-inspired. Take a tour de saison inside the timbered tasting room: Start with Space Cowboy Country Ale, then sip from the brewery’s Freestyle Series, which has included black wheat, dry-hopped and imperial saisons.
GERMANY’S GREATEST HITS
From Bamberg’s rauchbiers to Cologne’s kölsches, Germany’s the original Beervana for easy-drinking ales and lagers—it’s also the Motherland to the world’s most popular style, the pilsner. GET IT HERE: Save the cash on an overseas flight and head to Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland, Colo., whose lineup is dedicated to German styles. Take a whirlwind tour of the classics, from The Fearless Youth (a dunkel) to Little Red Cap (an altbier) and rare, pre-Reinheitsgebot offerings like the köttbusser, a near-forgotten style brewed with oats, honey and molasses.
BITTERS, STOUTS & REAL ALES
Authentic British cask beer isn’t easy to track down outside the U.K. Stateside, craft beer firkins usually also hold chilies, fruit or more, which overshadow the subtle nuances that makes real ale so popular across the pond. GET IT HERE: Cask beer at Delaware’s Stewart’s Brewing is the real deal: naturally carbonated beer served at 54 degrees, 11 gallons at a time. The rotating beer engine pours everything from the brewery’s 2012 GABF silver medalist Oyster Stout to Governor’s Golden Ale. Don’t miss the Black and Tan, the brewery’s Highlander Stout layered over its Golden Ale.
ALES FROM THE ABBEY
There’s a serious thirst in the U.S. for abbey ales thanks to the monks at Belgium’s Trappist breweries like Westmalle and Westvleteren. But you don’t have to be pious to brew them, or a jet-setter to sample good Trappist-style beer at its source. GET IT HERE: Given that Cooperstown, N.Y.-based Brewery Ommegang was founded by Belgian beer importer Don Feinberg of Vanberg & DeWulf and is currently owned by Duvel Moortgat, it’s got cred. But the real proof is in this countryside brewery’s inspired ales, like Abbey Ale, a dubbel, and Three Philosophers, a quadrupel.
EIN MASS BITTE
German polka music, lederhosen and liter-sized steins; if you don’t have fun at a German beer hall, you’re doing it wrong. But it doesn’t have to be Oktoberfest and you don’t have to learn a new language to join in the fun. GET IT HERE: New York City’s Radegast Hall & Biergarten has everything you need to replicate the experience, from sessionable beers like Radeberger Zwickel and Gaffel Kölsch to a plethora of wursts and sausages to live music (from brass jazz to gypsy guitar groups) every day, all beneath the vaulted ceiling of its picnic-table-lined beer hall.
A landlord’s home-cooked meal inside an Irish pub is an Emerald Isle comfort. It’s even better set to a fiddler’s rendition of “Danny Boy” and a pint of stout. GET IT HERE: The Old Brogue in Great Falls, Va., is a country-style pub that’s sated loyal customers’ thirst for all things Emerald since 1981. Settle into a dark wooden booth with traditional stew, bangers and mash and tall pints of Guinness to the tune of live Irish folk music. Or, swing by on Fridays for firkin tappings of regional craft beer.
Italian beer isn’t just lagers these days. Innovative beer’s brewing in crafty kettles around the Boot and popping up at bistros (not) near you. GET IT HERE: Birreria, the rooftop restaurant and nanobrewery above Manhattan’s Eataly, pairs panini and insalata with cask-conditioned ales crafted by head brewer Peter Hepp. You’ll also find offerings from Birra del Borgo and Baladin, whose brewers also helped develop Birreria’s beer menu.