Candidate #6- Café Gollem, Amsterdam, the Netherlands


Café Gollem was the first to bring good beer back to Amsterdam. And is still one of the best.


Around since 1974, Gollem is a beer institution famous in Amsterdam and the world. Originally, the proprietor hired a car, drove to Belgium and filled up. These beers sold quickly.


Gollem probably looked old when it was new. The bar has an ambience that breaks down social barriers and patrons chat freely. Maybe also because it is tiny: the venue is split over two layers; a large U-shaped stool area surrounding the bar, with some prized window seats too, and a mezzanine floor with some small tables. Get here early if you want a seat.


Make sure you compliment your beer with some Trappist cheese. Those monks, man.




Venue: 8/10

The only criticism is the size, but that’s also part of the atmosphere. So really I’m just complaining that it’s hard to get a seat, which is kinda like complaining because it is too good.

Beer: 9/10

It’s hard to imagine a better beer list. There are 14 taps to choose from (7 regulars, 7 guest) and ~250 bottles covering local breweries here in Amsterdam, craft brewers around the Netherlands and all the big and small players from Belgium.

Worthy? Yes

Little has changed since its’ inception almost 40 years ago, because they got so much right.


75. Pivovarsky Klub, Prague, Czech Republic

You really have to want to find the Pivovarsky Klub.


After spending some 30 minutes following a picture of a picture of a bad map, we were committed and had to make the cumulative efforts worthwhile. What didn’t help is an anonymous suburban location, past a run-down underpass.


The exterior is unappealing grey pebble-dash, but inside you are met with a very modern conversion. This first floor is more bottle shop than bar, and does lack warmth as a result.


Typical of Prague, downstairs hosts the main room in a cave-like warren. This is a great space with some classy features and thoughtful lighting. However, there is much more of a restaurant feel, where the interior offered ample opportunities to facilitate a great, cosy bar.


The beers we tried were so-so. The unfiltered pilsner was OK, but once you have tried the incarnation served at 1516 in Vienna, the bar is high. The blueberry beer was a decent desert tipple, but not remarkable.


The staff we met were great and really had everything under control. We were offered fresh beers before we ran out which made us feel looked-after, rather than pestered.


Taken outside, waiting for the rain to lessen.

Venue: 4/10

Upstairs is really a (very good) bottle shop. Downstairs is decent, but lacks some charm.

Beer: 5/10

The tap beers were not remarkable, but the large bottle shop upstairs is somewhat redeeming.

Worthy? No.

It’s a good bar, for sure, but the cave theme is an oft used one in Prague, and the top floor is vanilla at best.

Candidate #5- Zero Degrees, Bristol, England

Zero Degrees is a brewpub chain of four: Bristol was the second venue and a local institution in the town I called home for my college years.


The Bristol venue is the most unique as the location, nestled in amongst the historic Christmas Steps, provided an architectural challenge that was successfully met with stylish innovation. The steeply dipping hills allowed for three terraces and arresting views over the city. Some of the interior is of course reserved for the brewery, where glass walls enable the patrons to keep a discerning eye on the beer-monkeys as they go about their business. The brewery spills out over the bar with great arching pipes, emphasising the industrial chic design.


Gratuitous shot of Bristol looking lovely. This is no where near the bar.

Although several of the beers have won some very prestigious awards, such as a CAMERA award for the pilsner, the mango beer is the reason people come back, frequently. I’m told it was an experimental guest beer, indeed it is unnamed on the menu, but they struck gold, so that the “Speciality” option is now synonymous with mango, regardless that the blurb explains this beer to be a changing, experimental compliment to the fixed pilsner, wheat and black lager. In five years, this guest has never changed apart from a cranberry Christmas brew. On a summer’s day, this mango beer is probably the best thing you could imbibe.

Venue: 7/10

Architecturally sumptuous, but perhaps a little cold on the inside.

Beer: 6/10

Mango beer. Much, much better than it sounds.

Worthy? Maybe


101. Bierproeflokaal In de Wildeman, Amsterdam, Holland

A music-free emporium of beer housed in an old distillery, In De Wildeman is in a very exclusive class of beer bars.


Unfortunately, a smear of tourist gash has spread insidiously around In De Wildeman, but don’t let that confuse your navigation; yes, there really is a coffee shop opposite, a souvenir shop next door and a frat house down the road.


Trappist beers are, blessedly, becoming quite common. Much rarer, is a barman asking if you want a room temperature or cold Orval, who then expertly pours the bottle into two glasses (above) so that you can enrich to your tastes. Brilliant. Even better, you can marry your Orval with some Trappist cheese or a soft, melting cheese and chutney pie.



IMG_9950The decor is wood, beer and dust. There are some old, rare bottles and glasses, and old books. An entrance tucked away beside the bar leads to a second room, where one can find space at peak times, and solitude at others. All this charm comes at a price, and the beers are expensive, even for Amsterdam.IMG_9919

There is a small selection of outdoor seating. With your back to the wall and a beer in hand, this is a great people-watching spot.



Venue: 9.5/10

It’s hard to imagine a better drinking den. Maybe upgrade the tacky plastic menus?

Beer: 9.5/10

18 drafts, ~250 bottles, a carefully selected guest range and regulars chosen by the regulars’ whims. The range is stunning, well-kept, poured and presented.

Worthy? Yes

Is there any better?


110. Sunset Grille & Tap, Boston, MA

For a liquid education, visit Boston’s best stocked beer bar; 112 fresh taps and three times as many bottles from microbreweries and afar.


The menu is overwhelming, so just go from left to right and play ‘drink until you throw up’.*


The staff are friendly and very efficient. Sure, they work for tips, but they are so much better than those ambling, feckless sponges of indifference who work for money.


There is an affable, community vibe about the place. Nestled in the suburb of Allston, visiting tourists will need to make an effort to search it out, and can jump on the tram to Packards Corner. A lot of Boston exudes wealth and privilege. Allston is not that place: instead, expect a much more inclusive, eclectic and welcoming borough.

Venue: 7/10

Effortlessly American. Fantastic local vibe and friendly staff. I could spend a long time here.

Beer: 9/10

112 beers on draft. ONE HUNDRED AND TWELVE.

Worthy? Yes.

A fine example of  a typical American hangout- but with a stunning collection of beer.


*Official rules can be found at the bottom of your glass, under the beer.


Candidate #4- Café Gruter, Oud Zuid, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

In the den of Amsterdam’s social elite, south of the park, Café Gruter is a vestige to honest and grimy drinking. The seating sprawls outside, some of which is sheltered by a conservatory, all of which enables patrons to watch the wealth go by.


The walls are plastered with polaroids; faded and old nestled with glossy and new, suggesting a work in progress.


The bar is high and layered, offering a perfect leaning perch to imbibe and enthuse. The beer list is small but well chosen, often with a few seasonal brews.


Venue: 8/10

Effortless, slightly grotty, unkempt, haphazard brown-bar is not an effortless style to pull off; Café Gruter offers a masterclass. The bar also spills out onto a top people-watching terrace in a rather swanky Amsterdam suburb metres from the best park in town, so the location scores a lot of points too.

Beer: 7/10

Beer lists in the Netherlands rarely take the more = better approach so common across the pond, but whilst small, it is well chosen and Westmalle Tripel is testament to that.


Gruter is a quintessential brown bar. Amsterdam already has FOUR venues on the list, but amazingly none capture the brown bar culture that has thrived in the Netherlands for centuries.


132. Gösser Bierklinik, Vienna, Austria


For me, Vienna was a squalid disappointment on many fronts. The most romantic city in the world? Better stick to the square kilometer in the centre then.


I thought Vienna would salvage its reputation with its old European charms and quality beer. So much potential: I even liked the name; “The Beer Clinic”, how whimsical! But none of the chthonic, ancient, rustic Central European charm, so resplendent in Prague, can be found in Gösser Bierklinik.

Often great bars have an unremarkable frontage, but at the Bierklinik, this rather set the tone for the evening. We asked the impatient waiter for a beer recommendation and were left lumbered with bloody Gösser. This piss-water is the Heineken of Austria, and surely has the friendliest profit margin.


Damn good schnitzel though:


Venue: 4/10

Unremarkable. Played heavily on the historic, medieval theme, but in this respect can’t hold a candle to the average old Prague pub.

Beer: 1/10

We asked for a recommendation, and were treated to Gösser pils; the Heineken of Austria.

Worthy? No

There are much better bars of this style in Vienna, and a remarkable new one in 1516, so this inclusion is unfathomable.