144. The Dubliner, Washington, DC

The Dubliner seems to be an institution in DC, but it wouldn’t really stand-out in Ireland. Since this is a global list, it seems hard to justify this inclusion.

IMG_2842

In truth, the dive-bar Irish pub right next door was much more affable and relaxed and had a better beer selection AND live music too.

IMG_2854

On a summer night such as on my visit, the expansive outdoor seating is a boon, and the close proximity to the station  adds to the appealing location, especially for a swift half between trains or a first port of call after a long journey. I imagine it is popular with the suited 5-o-Clock-finisher’s from the surrounding downtown offices.

IMG_2832

The interior is split into two: restaurant and bar, the latter of which offers a long row of stools, sports on tv and attentive bar staff to help you while away some hours. But so does next door.

IMG_2836

Yes, that’s a lager served in a Guinness glass in the background. Come on people.

 

Venue: 5/10

Nothing extraordinary for Ireland, but a real good effort for the States.

Beer: 3/10

Very decent Guinness for this side of the pond, but a very limited selection otherwise.

Worthy? No.

From an American history perspective, perhaps. But not for the beer.

Advertisements

28. The Brickskeller, Washington, DC

The Brickskeller has unfortunately been sold off and re-opened as The Bier Baron Tavern. So it’s kinda on the list.

IMG_2883

Fortunately, the excellent beer can collection is still there. Apparently (according to the surprisingly extensive Wiki page) The Brickskeller was a stalwart during the collecting fad in the 70’s, where the fathers of well-healed underage collectors would pay for hundreds of dollars worth of cans to be emptied from the bottom, in order to preserve the top, and deliver them as the valuable trinkets they are to their kids.

IMG_2895

They even have an old Waitrose one from the UK- I didn’t even know they ever existed.

IMG_2887

Great venue, vast beer menu; why the bad review? One women is responsible for this: the barmaid. Maybe I’m used to superhuman attentiveness and almost-ass-kissing joviality when I’m in the States, maybe she wouldn’t have stood out in Europe. She certainly wouldn’t have in Zum Uerige. The difference there is that the gruff efficiency with which their staff sling another alt on your table is part of the charm. She was a ruinous scourge on an otherwise excellent beer bar.

IMG_2897

I get that bar staff work for tips (whaaat- they work for MONEY?!) but one of the huge advantages about working in a beer bar is…working with all that yummy beer. If you’d rather do shots with your friend/love-interest at the end of the bar, then go find a lovely little dive-bar where not only is this fine, it’s recommended. But these places should be a haven where I can ask which saison she recommends (some of which are United Statian, so new to me), and get some passion, maybe some tasting notes- not just a name, with no explanation. This might sound petty, but this is but one instance on a list of aggrievements.

IMG_2900

Venue: 4/10

A lot of potential; almost great decor. The staff are ruining this place.

Beer: 8/10

A broad, well-described selection, helpfully categorised by country and style, with explanatory tasting notes to help you through the varieties.

Worthy? No

It almost definitely used to be, and I really want it to be.  Sadly, this has fallen by the wayside. A large menu is not enough these days: otherwise this list would be largely comprised of Belgian bars.

68. Brasserie Federal, Zurich, Switzerland

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

IMG_0785

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.

IMG_0806

 

IMG_0807

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.

IMG_0822

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).

IMG_0823

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.

24. Brauhaus Sion, Cologne, Germany

IMG_1809

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

IMG_1839

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.

IMG_1834

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.

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.

IMG_0791

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.

38. The Wynkoop Brewery, Denver, CO

IMG_0560

The Wynkoop Brewery opened for business in 1988 and became Denver’s first brewpub and craft-brewery. They are pioneers in this brewpub-crazy state (Colorado ranks 4th in craft breweries per capita) and have been getting a lot right since their inception, such as their commitment to the environment and localism.

IMG_0565

Somehow they procured the  J. S. Brown Mercantile Building, built in 1899, and originally home to a mercantile emporium during Denver’s pioneering early days. This building is really quite magnificent and retains a lot of the built-to-last original features such as thick timber pillars and  pressed-tin ceilings. Unfortunately, this expansive former warehouse is a difficult space to renovate as a brewpub and the promise of the exterior is not fulfilled inside.

IMG_0567

The Wynkoop Brewing Company raises the question of “At what size does a ‘craft’ brewery lose its name”? Whilst Wynkoop is far from the Blue Moon and Sierra Nevada scale, their website bangs on about their corporate offerings and their new beer-canning operations. I don’t think they can be thought of as a micro-brewery anymore. Will the quality suffer as their business grows?

IMG_0569

Rocky Mountain oysters are bulls testicles. Just so you know.

Venue: 5/10

The old mercantile building is maintained beautifully and separated cleverly to preserve atmosphere and an affable vibe. The inside is not nearly as remarkable as the exterior though.

Beer: 4/10

A large range for a micro-brewery, which I’m sure I would appreciate if I was local. As a passing guest, I felt that maintaining this breadth was at the expense of individual quality. I was not blown away by their award-winning dark larger (try Flek Thirteen for an excellent example), but they redeemed themselves with the milk stout. The IPA is OK.

Worthy? Just about.

They haven’t got everything right, but they do have that most elusive of qualities: an affable, charming vibe. The staff interact as though they are family.

14. U Fleků, Prague, Czech Republic

IMG_1210

U Fleků is a brilliantly preserved Bohemian experience in the heart of Prague. The first written reference places a brewery on this site since 1499, making this the oldest continuous brewpub in Central Europe.

IMG_1215

If you’ve ever been to Prague, especially if you’ve stood on Charles Bridge, you will have a sense of the strangling number of tourist cloying the streets. It is remarkable U-Fleku-Beersthen, that U Fleků retains such Medieval charm and unspoilt grandeur. There is space inside for a staggering 1,200 patrons siphoned through eight distinct rooms, each with their own character. These range from the chthonic ‘Sausage’ room with arched beamed ceilings, to the resplendent and decadent Academy room which has hosted Czech socialites and celebrities for centuries.

Venue: 10/10

An excellent example of Czech Bohemian grandeur surviving through the ages and coping with the huge summer tourist numbers.

Beer: 8/10

There is literally one beer, the Flek Thirteen; a dark lager whose names derives from its Plato rating of 13 degrees. One could make the perfectly reasonable argument that my rating is far too high for a single-beer bar. To one, I say “Go drink some”.

Worthy? Yes

Legendary.

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

IMG_0010

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

IMG_0021

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.

IMG_7108

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.

IMG_0015

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.

IMG_0019

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:

IMG_0009

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.