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Global cuisine

Iconic beers to try around the world

Aug 05, 2022 by Thea Engst

Making and drinking beer are traditions that span cultures and continents. From the lightest of lagers to the densest of imperial stouts and everything in between, beer is distinct to the region it’s brewed, which makes trying beers while traveling a great way to experience the local culture. In honor of International Beer Day (cheers!) we made a guide to the most iconic brews in the world and where to find them.

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Guinness

Ireland


My goodness my Guinness! It’s difficult to find a beer more iconic than this Irish stout. While many may have heard of or tried a Guinness, and consider it one of the top beers in the world, it’s a rarity to sip this malt from the source in Dublin. And having a Guinness in Ireland is a whole different experience. Just ask our staffer Nate. “Guinness is definitely better in Ireland. It’s not just a myth.” So if you’re in Ireland, order a Guinness, and if you’re in Dublin, don’t miss a visit to the legendary brewery.

The St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin first opened in 1759, and Guinness is still brewed right on site. When you visit Dublin with us, you’ll see the process firsthand before sitting down to enjoy the freshest pint of Guinness of your life.

Did you know that Guinness was the first beer to be poured with nitrogen? Up until 1959, draught beer was poured with a mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Guinness pioneered the nitrogen-only pour, which creates that thick and chewy signature texture, similar to an egg white in a cocktail. It also gives this top beer its iconic dense and frothy look.

Tasting notes

Guinness is known for its quiet malt and coffee notes. Despite appearing dark and dense, this stout is surprisingly light.

What makes it iconic

The famous Guinness pour is perhaps the most iconic attribute of this Irish beer. It must be poured in two sessions:

  1. Pull the tap towards yourself, with the glass at a hard angle, filling it until the beer is about one inch from the rim.
  2. Let it settle (which means that those cloudy light brown waves turn completely black and a thick, foamy head forms.)
  3. Position the glass straight up and down under the tap once more. Bring the Guinness as close to the nozzle as you can without touching it to the foamy head.
  4. Push the tap backward to slow the stream while pulling the glass down so that the top of the beer never touches the draught spout. Gently fill the glass to the brim without agitating the already settled beer.

Guinness created this process to mimic a cask beer pour, which requires a pumping mechanism and takes even longer to settle. The Irish brewery recreated the effect without quite so long of a wait. While it does require some patience, we can all agree it’s worth it!

Where to try this beer on tour

Get a Guinness at countless pubs around Ireland. And if you’re on our Ireland: A Feast of Culinary Flavors & Local Traditions tour, you can add an excursion for a private Guinness Experience & Irish Pub Dinner to taste, dine, and learn more about the rich Guinness history and how it became one of the world’s best beers.

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Delirium Tremens

Belgium


When it comes to the top beers in the world, look no further than the likes of Belgium and Germany. Between these two countries, you could trip and fall into a brewery and it will give you some of the best tasting and highest-quality beers of your life. The problem isn’t where to find great beer, it’s which beer to choose.

May we suggest the living legend—Delirium Tremens? It’s a blonde ale with an iconic pink elephant logo and gray ceramic bottle. Staffer Tom first tried this beer at Delirium Café in Brussels, and he said his experience went beyond the tasty beer. “They only serve it in twenty-ounce pours and also offer entire glass boot-fulls (for the boots, they make you hand over your shoes as collateral, so you do not run off with a twelve-inch tall glass boot). Ten out of ten, would recommend.”

Tasting notes

If you like fruit and candy, put this on your list of beers to try. The Delirium Tremens is sweet with orange zest, pear, banana, clove, and bubble gum.

What makes it iconic

The pink elephant logo and Cologne-style ceramic bottles make this a distinguishable beer on shelves and once in a glass, the unique flavors make it a crushable, potent, and memorable brew.

Where to try this beer on tour

Head to Brussels on our Amsterdam, Luxembourg & Brussels tour and use your free time to visit Delirium Café like Tom did, or you can choose our Food & Wine: Beers of Belgium & Germany tour and visit Huyghe Brewery, where Delirium Tremens is produced.

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Tusker Lager

Kenya


Kenya Breweries Limited was founded in 1922, which is also the year it released the next iconic brew in our beer guide, the Tusker Lager. This flagship beer is named after the elephant (a male, commonly referred to as a tusker in Africa) that killed the brewery’s co-founder the same year the brewery opened. The brewery itself goes by East African Breweries Limited these days, but it still produces Tusker Lager in Kenya, though the beer’s popularity is most definitely not limited to Kenya. Tusker Lager is loved throughout Africa.

Staffer Jamie first tasted a Tusker Lager as part of her nightly routine while on tour. “One of the best parts of my Tanzania Wildlife Safari was sitting with my group after a day of game drives and enjoying the “sundowner,” which is a type of traditional happy hour. A father-son duo in my group kept ordering the Tusker beer, so I figured I’d try it! ... it was so nice to try it while watching the animals near our lodge.” Can you think of a nicer way to finish out your day on safari?

Tasting notes

From the nose to the palate, the Tusker is light as a feather. The nose is dry and malty, and the palate is subtle and citrusy. You’re left refreshed, which is a great way to feel after a day of exploring in Africa!

What makes it iconic

Tusker is considered one of the best beers in the world because of the rarity of being an African beer that is made with entirely African ingredients. The beer is such a symbol of pride that there is a soccer team named after it (Tusker F.C.—and they’re the second best in Kenya!). It ranks on this list because of its devotion to being crafted with intention and love from local ingredients, for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.

Where to try this beer on tour

Enjoy a Tusker Lager as your sundowner on our Tanzania Wildlife Safari like staffer Jamie did, or on our Kenya Wildlife Safari tour either way—your thirst for something refreshing and local will be quenched.

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Ayinger Bairisch Pils

Germany


Moving along in our beer guide, we come to Germany. Like Belgium, Germany hosts some of the oldest breweries in the world. The country still adheres to Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria’s Purity Law of 1516. The law stipulates that only water, hops, and barely (yeast was added later) can go into a German beer, keeping the quality (and taste) pristine.

Ayinger Bairisch Pils is a Bavarian pilsner and appears on many lists of different beers to enjoy around the world. The Ayinger Brewery is near Pilsen, the birthplace of pilsners, and has perfected their pilsner recipe over 144 years. Crisp, clean, and bready, this beer is true perfection in its dedication to the Bavarian pilsner style. The Ayinger Bairisch Pils is a can’t-miss on the list of the best beers in the world to try, so add it to your beer-bucket list now.

Tasting notes

The pilsner opens with light, flowery notes and has hints of bitterness on the palate up front. Expect that bitterness to balance out with bread and biscuits on the finish.

What makes it iconic

As if being one of the oldest breweries on the planet doesn’t make you iconic enough, Ayinger is a common pils you’ll find all over Germany. They make other styles of beer but their Bavarian pils is more than a pils—it’s a model for other pilsners to look up to. Ever seen the style of a beer labeled “Bavarian-style pils”? This beer, and those like it, are what Bavarian-styles often imitate, but simply can’t duplicate.

Where to try this beer on tour

Find the Ayinger Pils in many biergartens across Germany. And if you’re on our Food & Wine: Beers of Belgium & Germany tour take an excursion while in Munich to the brewery—it’s about a thirty-minute drive south of the city.

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Pilsner Urquell

Czech Republic


Since pilsners were invented in the Czech Republic, it’s only fair to discuss the most popular pilsner in the country. Since its first debut in 1842, Pilsner Urquell has been produced in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Russia. However, it is now exclusively made in the Czech town of Pilsen, and it’s widely considered the most popular beer in the country. Even though you can get this beer in America, the Pilsner Urquell is its freshest where it first hit shelves.

Tasting notes

The Pilsner Urquell will be fresh, crispy, and floral. Expect some lovely, light bitterness as the end... and to order another round.

What makes it iconic

Simply put, the Pilsner Urquell is the mother of pilsners. It sets the tone for many Czech pilsners and, like the Bavarian-style pilsners we see produced outside of Bavaria, we also see Czech-style pilsners imitating this very style. If you love beer, you probably also love the history of it, and sipping a Pilsner Urquell in the Czech Republic is as beautiful a nod to pilsner history as you can give.

Where to try this beer on tour

Anywhere in the Czech Republic is going to have the world’s freshest Pilsner Urquell. But if you’re on our Budapest, Vienna & Prague tour, you can take a bus during your free time in Prague to the brewery in Pilsen. The bus is only one hour each way.

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Chicha

Peru


Chicha is an unexpected bonus entry into our beer guide. It isn’t a brand of beer, it doesn’t come from a brewery, and you can’t order it at a bar. Chicha is a corn-based beer brewed in the homes of indigenous Andean people. There is no uniform recipe, so if you are fortunate enough to try this brew more than once, the taste will be unique to the brewer—which only makes it that much tastier!

Chicha makes the world’s best beer list for a few reasons. First, it has a lengthy presence in Peruvian history—archaeologists hypothesize that chicha was being made as early as 5000 B.C. It also has intricate ties to the local culture. It has been used in rituals, offered to the gods, and served as a gracious sign of welcome and thanks. While the taste may differ from brewer to brewer, the cultural ties remain the same, and that makes this the most unique brew in our beer guide.

Tasting notes

The taste of chicha will differ depending on who made it. They may add different spices that offer vastly different tastes. But in general, the corn used to make all chicha will result in a thicker-bodied beer than say a traditional lager.

What makes it iconic

Chicha ranks on this list for its deep roots in the traditions, rituals, and history of the Andean people. Just ask staffer Jamie, who was floored by the chicha ritual she got to be a part of when on our Grand Tour of Peru.

“The best part of visiting the Misminay village in the Sacred Valley was when the farmers invited our group into the field to show us their agricultural techniques,” she said. “At the end of the farming demonstration, the men passed around their homemade chicha beer. I was so moved to see that before taking a sip themselves, each farmer poured some on the ground to give Pachamama, or Mother Earth, the first sip. It was a beautiful, symbolic gesture, and our whole group got to take part. Getting the chance to experience a cultural moment like that was very special—and the unbelievable views of the Andes surrounding us just made it that much better!”

Where to try this beer on tour

Join our Grand Tour of Peru: Machu Picchu to Lake Titicaca like Jamie did, or book the Ancient Peru & Machu Picchu tour for the opportunity to drink chicha. If you’re lucky, the locals will share!

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Peroni Nastro Azzurro

Italy


Whether it’s wine, aperitifs, cocktails, or beer, Italy knows how to make a delicious drink. (Which is why we offer not one but five different Food & Wine Tours through Italy.) Italy boasts some of the world’s most famous beverages, but Peroni Nastro Azzurro might be the best-known beer. (And if you’ve had it, you know why.)

Peroni Brewery was founded in 1846 and created their most famous beer, the Peroni Nastro Azzurro lager, in 1963. Nastro Azzurro is light, dry, and mildly hopped. Much like Italian wine, it pairs well with Italian food. The dryness cuts through the acid and fats that are very common in Italian foods (think tomato-based sauces and rich meaty dishes like Veal Milanese). Just ask staffer Emily. “The Nastro Azzurro is the classic Italian lager. Light and refreshing, it goes perfectly with a pizza from Gusto Pizza.”

Tasting notes

With its light nose and dry, slightly bitter finish, the Nastro Azzurro is crisp, uncomplicated, and delicious.

What makes it iconic

This premium lager makes the list of best beers because, to put it simply, it’s a universal crowd pleaser. Pair it with food or sip it on its own, Nastro Azzurro is easy to reach for no matter the occasion, and what’s more iconic than that?

Where to try this beer on tour

Like the Pilsner Urquell, Peroni Nastro Azzurro is available internationally. Still, we consider it an absolute must to try this beer when in Italy. It’s still brewed right in Rome, which makes it extra fresh—almost like drinking a beer in HD. Try it on our Food & Wine: Flavors of Tuscany & Umbria tour or on our Food & Wine: Southern Italy & Sicily tour. You won’t be disappointed!


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About the author | Thea Engst
Thea fell in love with travel as soon as she arrived in Venice, Italy on a family trip as a child. Since then, she has made having adventures around the world a priority, with trips like retracing her grandfather’s steps through WWII, climbing glaciers in Alaska, and horseback riding in Iceland. Thea is a nomad at heart, always planning the next trip. In her off-time she is working on a novel inspired by the woman she was named after, mixing cocktails, and watching any procedural crime show she can find.

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