68. Brasserie Federal, Zurich, Switzerland

Whenever I want to get mugged, I go out for dinner in Zurich.

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It’s hard to understand why Brasserie Federal doesn’t work. The shell of the building is exquisite: sweeping arched windows, stained-glass roof, perfect people-watching opportunities. But then there is the shiny silver turnstile leading down the tasteless ‘marble’ stairs to the bathrooms (two francs please), the laminated sheet of Word art with blue toilet people acting as a sign, the miserable hot lamp attendants ambling around the ill-advised el fresco kitchen.

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There are around 100 beers, but they needn’t have bothered. Much of the list is like choosing between Heineken and Amstel; hardly Sophie’s choice. There are glaring omissions from this Swiss beer list: Storm & Anchor, I’m looking at you. At best, the microbrew scene in Switzerland can be described as inchoate, but quality is still there. Just not here. The Mousetrap (a tiny bar beside a British cheese shop) and Fork & Bottle (American-run family-friendly restaurant with an incredible beer garden) are your best choice in Zurich for Swiss beers. Yep, an English and an American place serve the best Swiss beers.

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The service is quick, in tune with their customers’ needs, which is somewhat refreshing in Switzerland. My waiter was particularly friendly, striking up a conversation with ease, seemingly happy to speak English with the tourists (you’d think he’d get bored of that).

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Venue: 2/10

Convenient, and a top, top people-watching area. But the inside is generic, worn, and hard to take a picture of that makes it look impressive.

Beer: 2/10

Probably the widest selection of Swiss beers. But why bother?

Worthy? No.

Not even the best bar in Zurich.

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Candidate #10- Strange Brewing Company, Denver, CO.

Watermelon, goodness.

Watermelon, goodness.

Thanks for not reading the Rocky Mountain News. Thank you Rocky Mountain residents, for chilling out and not generating much news. When the paper closed, two former employees took a punt on a 20-gallon home-brew kit and a beery dream. Strange was born.

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There are eleven beers detailed on their website, but no mention of the watermelon bomb I tried in July 2013. They also say they close at 9 though, so I don’t know what to believe. The Strange Pale Ale was also good, and I’d already had a Pliny the Elder that night to which it was inevitably compared.

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The Strange Brewing Company is really well hidden in an unremarkable industrial area of Denver. All chipboard and business inside, the decor is a stark contrast to the effort made by bars this side of the pond to create an homely, affable vibe. But, despite their decorators best efforts, or in spite of them, they have created a brilliant atmosphere. I loved it. I was also on my nth ±6 beer when arriving, so make of that what you may.

That really is where it is.

That really is where it is.

There was some kind of bluegrass yokel band swinging on a trailer in the garden which, given the location, was disturbing no one.

Venue: 7/10

The bar really is the brewery- the garden is reached by walking through a room full of brewing vats.

Beer: 8/10

The (temporary?) watermelon beer is perhaps the best fruit beer ever.

Worthy? Maybe

Huge novelty value, instantly welcoming community feel and an all-round positive of the new micro-brewing explosion.

103. Charlie’s Bar, Copenhagen, Denmark

Pilestræde, Copenhagen, Denmark, has a very British surprise: Charlie’s Bar.

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With every detail, you will be transported to Ole Blighty; the staff will only speak English to you here, as will many of the punters.

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The cynic may point to the numerous, similar and possibly better bars of this ilk in the Motherland. But this is in Copenhagen. Which makes it unique, and quite remarkable. Drinkers vote with their wallet and their feet; Charlie’s is twice the price as next door, yet always rammed on the weekends.

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The ceiling is covered in old beer mats, presumably for the Australian visitors. Narrow and cluttered, in truth the seating options are limited. Those lucky few will be treated to cosy corners and close seating for vibrant conversation. The bar spills out to the street and has a ledge to prop your beer on whilst ogling the locals.

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Venue: 8/10

People-watcing Mecca, chthonic beer cave and beer mat emporium.

Beer: 8/10

Brilliant, if English ale is your thing. It is kept so well, Charlie’s Bar is one of a handful of pubs outside the U.K. to have been awarded the Cask Marque of quality. The menu is also furnished with a few choice Belgian’s.

Worthy? Yes

Charlie’s Bar may not be remarkable in the U.K.- but it’s not in the U.K., so it is.

113. Redbones Restaurant, Somerville, MA

Redbones is deep in Somerville, Boston, to the north of Cambridge and you are unlikely to stumble upon it by chance. The pilgrimage is well worth the effort as they serve up 24 beers on tap to wash down the excellent home-cooked BBQ meats.

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Rustic and unkempt to the core, Redbones has a vibe unique amongst the emerging set of airbrushed bars. I hope that never changes.

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Redbones is situated in what seems to be a rather sterile and vanilla suburb, which makes the decor and the clientele surprising and refreshing. The patrons were genuinely friendly and the layout facilitates the gregarious and affable vibe. Nothing here is taken too seriously; it just ‘is’.

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Venue: 7/10

It is what it is. Unashamedly rustic and rugged; a lovely charm.

Beer: 7/10

24 taps, one cask and a wheel to help you choose from some top locals and fine imports, such as Karmeliet and Delirium.

Worthy? Yes

The BBQ food is brilliant, the regulars quirky and the staff are happy. Great vibe.

16. Falling Rock Tap House, Denver, CO

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If I was being nice, I’d describe the exterior as ‘unassuming’; but really it is ugly and deceptive. Falling Rock is located in downtown Denver amidst myriad game-day bars and brash night-spots, and blends in unassumingly. What lies beneath however is a bounty of local and specialist American beers.

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Pliny the Elder on tap! In 2013 it was rated the 2nd overall beer on beeradvoctae.com, 3rd on ratebeer.com*. Disappointing glassware.

The large main room is plastered in beer bottles, taps, signs and various other memorabilia. This makes the big space feel much closer and settling, whilst still being able to accommodate large numbers. There are some choice European imports, but the vibe is quintessential American tap house; pool downstairs, neon outside, nuts, burgers and fries on the menu. Clearly a lot of thought and patience was involved in designing the layout, furnishings and beer list, which is effected with the typical Coloradan breezy complacence, making it seem effortless: “Oh, this? It’s just my awesome bar with 80+ beers on tap. Nothing really”.

Venue: 8/10

The interior is resplendent with bottles and taps, which help to fill the space necessary for all the local enthusiasts.

Beer: 9/10

The range at Falling Rock is more than anyone could expect; Pliny the Elder is a real treat to find anywhere. They do not limit themselves entirely to Usonian brews, and have some tastefully chosen European imports. One could argue that they only have the big names imported, but I can say with some authority that these names are big through quality, not rabid commercialisation; they stock Orval, Rochefort and Sam Smith’s, not Heineken, Palm and John Smiths.

Worthy? Yes

Do you know a tap house with a better Usonian range?

*As much as I love user-submitted review websites, and as clever as the rating algorithms become, there will always be inherent bias. This is frustratingly evident on RateBeer where they break down the best beers by category: there is a cider category, which contains NO ciders from England, the birthplace and undisputed king of the genre. In fact, 7 of the 15 ‘ciders’ are from Quebec. Being a .com, we can probably assume that most of the reviewers are Usonian, and have little real knowledge of brews outside of their country, apart from imports whose flavour has corrupted during long voyages. If Quebec is the home of cider brewing, clearly the name has a different stylistic meaning than in its birthplace. Like

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wise, 8 of the top 10 overall beers are Usonian. Sure, the population is roughly equal to Europe, so we can expect a strong competition. But finding 80% of the worlds best beers in the States is to bat far above its weight, especially when some of these styles are copies or European originals.

Candidate #3- De Prael, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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Craft brewing has snowballed in the Netherlands recently, with powerhouses such as Brouwerij de Molen emerging on the international scene.

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Amsterdam is home to a few stalwarts, such as the unpronounceable Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Although, deserving the most attention, in my humble opinion, is De Prael.

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For some time they existed only as a beer shop (proeflokaal), and in the last year they have enjoyed thriving business in a tucked-away venue in the Red Light District. The decor is excellent, a tasteful blend of individual adornments: framed beer bottle label art; old Dutch country house tiles; beer tap bathroom taps, blended with classy contemporary: spotlights; a shiny racing bike.

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The beers are named after old Dutch music ‘icons’, of which they have some vinyl sleeves on the walls. It’s hard to go wrong in the beer choice, and choosing a favorite is like deciding which of your kid’s should be handed over to the Nazis. Willecke, a lovely La Chouffe-type triple blond and Mary, a strong copper triple, are highlights. In the winter, Willy, at 11.4%, will warm you up.

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Despite being located between the red light district and the very popular, very touristy, very garish Warmoesstraat, De Prael enjoys a predominantly local crowd. Presumably partly because it is tucked away up an alley, and partly because the alley looks like this:

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Venue: 9.5/10

Quite possibly the best bar in town. Younger than it looks, De Prael is cleverly designed to accommodate groups, couples, loners and a band. The decor is completely original. There is a section that recreates a lounge from a typical Dutch house, adorned with Delft tiles and comfy armchairs.

Beer: 8/10

Obviously limited by selling only their own beer, this small brewery is world class and it would take years to get bored of their regulars. There are always seasonal brews too.

Worthy?

Yes. Without hesitation, I can say this is better than some on the list I’ve already frequented, so logic follows that it will be better than many more.

86. The Olde Mitre Tavern

Publicity is the last thing this pub needs; it’s tiny. Ye Olde Mitre Tavern is a rare hidden gem, nestled in an alley…somewhere in London.

The current incarnation was forged in 1772, although there has been a tavern of sorts on this site since 1547. And that is brilliant. It also belongs to the Crown. Where else can you drink in such good historic company?

Ye Olde Mitre, Clerkenwell, London

Thanks Guardian.com

The decor is a Tudor-style wood panelling with grand fireplaces, snugs and greying old men. Hard as it is to find, the secret is out and I recommend avoiding the post-work crush. Classic pub food is also served, such as pork pies and pickled eggs.

Venue: 9/10

This is a quintessential British pub. No sports, no music, no advertising; plenty of bitter and bar snacks. The exterior is also very picture friendly.

Beer: 7/10

I love British ale. It travels awfully, so I really appreciate it when possible. For me, the beer choices were fantastic, but the scores reflects the limited range; no foreign muck, as it were. However some of the 7 real ales an tap are award winning, and complemented by varying guests.

Worthy? Yes

The pubs of Great Britain are world-famous and very much part of the heritage. Unfortunately, a lot have been painted white and taken over by bland chains. The Old Mitre Tavern has firmly resisted change, and remains a stellar example of the quaint British tradition.

Candidate #2- Bier Fabriek, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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Bier Fabriek is a micro-brewery in Amsterdam, currently hidden behind the metro development on the Rokin. This doesn’t keep the numbers down; the weekend demands a reservation. And rightfully so.

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They brew two of their beers on site in the middle of the bar. Size demands that extensions to their range are brewed offsite on their behalf.; this is currently an unfiltered pilsner crafted in collaboration with the family run Brewery Alfa and is bloody splendid. It is quite similar to the “Lager” at 1516, Vienna, if that helps?

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The menu is extensive so long as you want barbecue chicken. Which you should, as it is moreish. And there are great sacks of monkey nuts to snack on and discard their shells all over the floor.

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Venue: 8/10

Industrial-chic isn’t easy to pull off, but De Bierfabriek does it and then some; there are even parts that feel cosy. The service is splendid too, which in Amsterdam is like a virgin behind a window in the Red Light District. There are also monkey nuts everywhere; I don’t think I need to explain why that is brilliant. Some of the tables have their very own taps for you to dispense the beer yourself according to you rwhim.

Beer: 7/10

Only three beers on the menu to choose from, but they are all their own and cover pils, amber-weisse and black. They are good, undoubtedly, but not as fine as the frustratingly micro-brewed offerings at “1516″ in Vienna.

Worthy?

This blog is very young still, so it is hard to opine with conviction. I really enjoy this bar- there is an undefinable quality, a quality that no amount of old beer memorabilia can guarantee. So they have done something right. One of the top 150 in the world though?

108. McMenamins Kennedy School Hotel

The Kennedy School Hotel is a converted elementary school in Portland housing guest rooms, several bars and a movie theatre. The educational theme is quirkily retained; one can drink in the “Detention Room”.

Credit to: ww.darngooddigs.com

Credit to: ww.darngooddigs.com

It is owned by the McMenamins brewpub empire. If I’m going to a pub, I like one with the ‘brew’ prefix. I was naturally hesitant when I found out the size of the McMenamins micro-brewing; fearing for a loss of character and rustic charm. 4785179782_66f3580d6cThat may well be the case to some extent, but it takes the profits of a successful chain to bankroll the renovation of such a unique venue.

Kennedy School Hotel is reviewed quite favourably over on RateBeer; however, these reviews are bolstered by the impressive venue, not the beers. There are some eminently quaffable brews, such as the Hammerhead and the Ruby, but they don’t stand out in the craft brewing scene.

Venue: 9/10

Striking and tasteful. The mezzanine floor is really charming and, despite the size, cosy. A very tasteful and successful conversion.

Beer: 3/10

The brews are really rather good compared to the common swill, but this list deals with the worlds elite, and they struggle for a footing in such company.

Worthy? Yes

There will be few venues as good as the Kennedy School and that alone holds a strong argument for inclusion.