Candidate #18- Café Belgique, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Café Belgique hides in plain sight- amidst chain retail outlets, it’s easy to not notice this gem of a beer warren.

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One of the smallest bars in Amsterdam, you’ll find yourself wondering, “How can this be one of the smallest?!”. Unbelievably, they host live music. I’m not sure how, or why- as appealing as music is to some, it won’t make this one-room cubby-hole any bigger, so it’s not like they can pay the DJ off the back of increased customer revenue- it’s always full. And heed that advice- turn up very shortly after opening (3pm) and you might get a seat.

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In truth, it thinks it’s way cooler than it is. And by ‘it’, I partly mean the clientele. If this were London, we’d call them scenesters. The website states “It’s frequently visited by a varied public of locals, expats, musicians, artists and dj’s”. See what I mean? Who cares if artists go there? Do I feel better about my Orval because the guy with an unkempt beard sat too-closely next to me sticks wires through books encased in styrofoam and calls it “A Critque on the Abandonment of Western Values”, and his dreadlocked girlfriend photographs litter blowing in the wind for her forthcoming exhibition in a disused plastic bag making factory? No, I do not.

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For the size, the beer choice is broad- 50 bottles and 8 taps, but even this may be too many as evidenced by the foul taste of the Floreffe Blonde.

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Venue: 9/10

The only real criticism is the size, but that’s also part of the atmosphere. And when you do finally get that corner seat by the window, boy does it feel cool.

Beer: 6/10

Decent range, but unfortunately not all the taps are very well maintained (I’m looking at you Floreffe Blonde).

Worthy? Maybe

Candidate #12- The Rake, London, UK.

Near London Bridge, hiding in a back-alley around Borough Market, is the curiously named The Rake.

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London, for a city so large, is not resplendent with ‘Little insert-part-of-the-world-here‘. Sure, there’s a Chinatown, but I’m not looking for tea (or msg). So it comes to The Rake to single-handedly prop up the Little American-dive-bar area of town.

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It does a pretty good job. I like dive bars. I like the worn, rough individuality, and how they always seem to have better tables than their ‘renovated’ cousins (see The Market Street Porter nearby). The Rake has used the scribblings and wisdom of craft brewers to decorate the walls, with brewer memorabilia to add flair.

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Not the first bar of the day.

The garden is bigger than the venue, and in truth this is the front-end of a beer distribution business. This ensures a great selection and rotation of international beers, the best I’ve sampled in London. One particular member of staff let these efforts down, as he shrugged his shoulders when I asked if they stocked any Dutch beers; I then sat down and put my beer on a Texels coaster.

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Venue: 6/10

If you like this sort of style, you’ll feel at home. Top effort, given the space limitations. A little bright and hard to relax in during the day.

Beer: 7/10

Great for London, merely above-averaged for the States.

Worthy? Maybe

Probably the second best bar in London, for those who want to sample from the international faucet.

Candidate #8- The Beer Temple, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Make this pilgrimage for the best selection of American beers in the Netherlands (and Europe?).

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This is the little sister of Proeflokaal Arendsnest (a world-class bar that sells only Dutch beers) and offers 30 draughts, 60+ American beers in bottles and a raft of rare and classic beers from elsewhere: Westvleteren 12, Tokyo et al. Some are prohibitively expensive, but at least they exist.

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The Beer  Temple is prone to being ‘taken over’ or ‘invaded’ by a guest brewery, where they showcase a host of their beers. The Mikkeller glomming had a long legacy, and several could be bought on draft for some time (again, some obscenely expensive bottles). The house beer -Tempelbier, is eminently quaffable, and the Orval cheese is a brilliant bar snack.

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Being so close to Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam, it’s easy to find and often easy to get a seat. Sneakily, it stays open very late and those tabs soon rack up.

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When it looks like that outside, it’s time to go to the pub.

Venue: 6/10

A large terrace on a busy street for people-watching, and a few really comfy seats inside. Looks every inch the American beer bar of its name.

Beer: 7/10

Due to the high hopping, a lot of the beers travel brilliantly. A deep trough of rare, great American beers.

Worthy? Yes

Might not be remarkable in the States, but it’s in Amsterdam and benefits from some classy European brews, particularly when breweries ‘take over’ The Beer Temple.

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.