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.

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98. Olympen Mat og Vinhus, Oslo, Norway

“Mount Olympus” is the oldest beer hall in Oslo, dating back to 1892, and has endured numerous reinventions. The incumbent style is a nod to the traditional continental beer hall style.

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Olympen is deep into possibly the only run-down, poor suburb of Oslo (and perhaps Norway), so pilgrimage is less than appealing. It is however merely blocks from the central train station, so its easy to find a reason to visit, no matter how little time you have in Oslo. The interior is starting Olympento look quite worn; whereas in a Belgian or Dutch ‘brown’ bar this would only add to the charm, unfortunately for Olympen the effect is more of a miserable neglect.

Expect to pay prices you didn’t think possible for beer, all the while the barman keeping a straight face. They are fiercely proud of the local Norwegian craft beers and you can find many small brewers not represented anywhere else in Norway. The food is local and seasonal, so think fish, pickled things and astronomically high prices.

Venue: 5/10

The unremarkable exterior belies the grand and striking interior. However, it was rather quiet on my visit and felt soulless through its capaciousness.

Beer: 7/10

150+ beer menu is truly remarkable for Norway. The focus is on Norwegian beers, some of which are rather good. The typical cannon of Abbey and Trappist brews are also well-represented.

Worthy? Yes

A good blend of history and local beer, Olympen is Oslo’s one weak candle to the beer world.