12. The Market Porter, Stoney Street, London, England

Near the big pointy thing, there’s a market where one can buy all sorts. Thirsty work as that undoubtedly is, The Market Porter is a saving grace.

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But location is all it’s got. The exterior has such promise, but the inside has befallen the same fate as all too many old pubs- a refurbishment that basically strips the character right out. Monotone painted walls and cheap furniture replace eclectic collections of souvenirs and tat proudly amassed by the owners and thick, worn tables that have supported countless pints and heard just as many conversations.

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If the sign (below) is to be believed, the pub opens exceptionally early to cater for the morning market workers, which is a nice touch. Perhaps that is why it is so renowned.

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One of the few personal decorative touches is the extensive collection of pump labels from previous guest brews. But these hide just a small part of the bland red paint throughout.

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Whilst the labels are indicative of a high turnaround of guest ales, this is true of many great, characterful, places in the UK.

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Venue: 2/10

Looks better on the outside. Recently refurbished (read: ruined).

Beer: 4/10

There seems to be a decent rotation, but not a wide range at any one time. One for the regulars.

Worthy? No

There is nothing remarkable, but if you are in the area, it’s probably worth popping in to cast your own opinion.

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90. Proeflokaal ‘t Arendsnest, Amsterdam, Holland

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There are over 170 breweries in the Netherlands, and nowhere are Dutch brews better represented than at Proeflokaal ‘t Arendsnest, which serves exclusively Dutch beers.

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At any one time there are ~100 bottle varieties and 30 taps, regularly changing and other, inferior, drinks like whiskey. Food is limited to yummy snacks such as cheese, meats and nuts.

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The staff are very knowledgable, if a little tired of being asked “What do you recommend, bro?”, and run tasting sessions and special events.

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This, like In De Wildeman,  is definitely on the tourist map, yet retains an affable, friendly vibe, where patrons freely talk to each other. There are a lot of small bars in Amsterdam, forcing strangers to sit together, but this is the only one that consistently houses social interaction. I’m not really sure how, but I tip my hat.

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Venue: 8/10

Classy-brassy. The space is very small and overcrowding is rife, but they have utilised the space as well as possible.

Beer: 8/10

The Netherlands has a splendid array of beers, and ‘t Arendsnest is often the first to peddle new, quality offerings. 30 taps is a lot to maintain, but they are equal to the challenge.

Worthy? Yes

There is no where better to sample the very best that Dutch brewers produce.

11. Zum Uerige, Dusseldorf, Germany

Zum Uerige is no shrinking violet on the beer scene- it has been serving weary travellers for hundreds of years (perhaps).

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Service is brisk and efficient (in Germany?!) and the waiters tally up your drinks on your beer mat, which acts as your tab, and possibly also inspires competition amongst friends, depending on your drinking style. Quiet a few patrons on travel review websites find this rude- it’s busy, the servers wonder around offering fresh beers already poured, so I think conventional serving would really slow things down.

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This was our third beer hall of the day, and we both found it much more characterful than Cologne’s two offerings (see Früh am Dom and Brauhaus Sion).

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Why is everyone moving so fast…?

The Uerige alt beer is style-defining, and rightfully so: delicious.

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There are a variety of rooms, some supporting dining and others promoting vertical drinking. This adds depth and, crucially, keeps the noise down. The prices are fair and the grub is typical German bar food- pig and pickled things. We had goulash which was packed with very generously sized stewed meat.

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Venue: 9/10

Hearty, warm and solid throughout. Very tastefully maintained. Efficient, brisk staff wandering around with fresh beers.

Beer: 8/10

A perfect example of a German Alt, eminently quaffable, and possibly the most stylish beer bottles around.

Worthy? Yes

Quality and history. Well-maintained without tacky refurbishments.

24. Brauhaus Sion, Cologne, Germany

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After Früh am Dom sufficiently lowered my expectations of Cologne’s bar scene, Brauhaus cemented them.

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The beer is served with brutal German efficiency, albeit unsmilingly and seemingly reluctantly. The Sion Kölsch is better than that served at Früh am Dom, but the comparison is a bit like Heineken vs. Amstel; really rather pointless, as you should be drinking almost anything else.

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A few of the rooms had a quaint antiquated feel about them but others, like in the above photo, were more like a coffee shop, resplendent with white walls and photos of the Nutcracker/Santa/people in stupid clothes.

There’s really little nice to say about this place. Completely ordinary.

Venue: 2/10

Just look at the third picture.

Beer: 2/10

Marginally better than Früh am Dom around the corner, but still completely unremarkable.

Worthy? No.

Some of the rooms look halfway decent, others are renovated without class or warmth. In truth, fairly tacky.

17. Früh am Dom, Cologne, Germany

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Expect tables as plastic as the atmosphere, leery drunk ‘lads’ and a jumble of noise clattering around the room. You can wash all this atmosphere down with a beer so steeped in tradition and brewed under such strict guidelines that it tastes remarkably like Heineken. It’s a hundred years of brewing tradition blah blah, but advancements have been made since then, and this stuff is really bland, train lager.

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One online reviewer, lets call them the inyourpocket Essential City Guides, tells us that Früh is “Frequented by a menagerie of classy locals”. I won’t tell you that. I’d plump for brash, loutish and staring young gentlemen, and plump middle ages. Maybe this is classy in Cologne. We can agree that it is perfect for groups.

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You can have any beer you want, as long as it’s this one.

The service is of a particular type: hurried and impersonal. The waiters, Köbes, are exclusively men aged 29-45, and they wonder around with a Kranz of beer ready to dispense them to thirsty patrons. This tradition is brilliant, and they will keep bringing you new beer until you concede and put your beermat on top of your glass. I didn’t eat, but I gather it is hearty German fare: pork and potatoes presented in an enterprising variety of ways.

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Probably the best of the numerous rooms, but still meh.

Venue: 3/10

A few rooms are a bit charming, from a distance, but almost all of it is plastic, tacky and falling apart.

Beer: 1/10

I don’t care how old it is, it tastes like Heineken. Enjoy!

Worthy? No.

There’s a real need to have some German beer halls represented on a list of the best places to have  a beer in the world. But try harder than this place.

8. Kulminator, Antwerp, Belgium

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I really wanted to love Kulminator. On paper, it excels; around 800 beers: unique personal furnishings; a resident cat; a long-serving, frail, elderly couple running the place since the 70s. Unfortunately, these proprietors are arseholes.

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Our beef with the owners is different to some reviews on ‘tripadvisor’, which mention a stunning, vocal over-reaction by the landlord to people sitting in his seat. We ordered a beer we were both familiar with, which we rarely see stocked: Timmermans Pêche. Being a generally poor beer, but a great fruit punch, Kulminator’s patrons usually come for something more renowned. Which is probably why ours were four years past their expiration. The carbonation kept the flurry of sediment circulating, some chunks of which were over a centimetre long. You know when you add warm butter to an egg mix too soon, and it creates a chunky mess?

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My girlfriend went to the bar to ask for a spoon for something fresher. Failing to grasp the concept, the grandmotherly figure said that they just have to put a date on the bottle, like this was some kind of explanation. Protesting further, the woman curtly replied that it won’t make us ill. Thanks grandma, I’m sure it was better in your day, when kids had respect for their elders. Once her arching back ambled away into the garden to deliver an order, we bolted.

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Venue: 4/10

Eerily quiet, although I’ve heard rumours about queues outside before opening.

Beer: 3/10

If you want to eat your beer, then it’s great. 800+ is too many for their customer base, their stock rotation too poor.

Worthy? No.

Rude.

75. Pivovarsky Klub, Prague, Czech Republic

You really have to want to find the Pivovarsky Klub.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

132. Gösser Bierklinik, Vienna, Austria

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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.

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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.

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Damn good schnitzel though:

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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.