Beer Around the World
Our love for craft beer occupies a lot of our time during our travels. We find researching breweries and beer bars, and then trying to actually locate them in a new place provides us with a different look at a city or town, often stumbling onto other places we wouldn’t have visited if it wasn’t for the search. We try to visit during open houses or happy hour to keep our beer budget costs down!
Below you’ll find a list and a recap of the pints we’ve drank around the world.
Beer in Asia
Good beer is lacking in Southeast Asia, but the craft beer scenes in China and Japan make up for the poor showing of its southern neighbors.
Phnom Penh‘s beer scene is mostly characterized by light lagers that are mass produced by large Cambodian breweries. Small micro-breweries are just starting to arrive.
Kingdom Breweries – brewery and tap room is north of the riverfront area on National Road 5. They have a first Friday event that includes great food and all you can drink beer. The beers are light, but the best brewed in the city and the tap room is a second floor respite from the chaos of Phnom Penh.
Himawari Microbrewery – an expensive place to drink just okay beer in Phnom Penh. The location in the back of the Himawari Hotel lobby though is quiet and peaceful – a nice place to relax after a long day.
Read more about beer in Cambodia here.
Shanghai has an up and coming beer scene that is producing a nice variety of ales along with some beer focused events like Shanghai Beer Week.
Boxing Cat Brewing – the best of the Shanghai craft beer scene as of now. Great variety of light and hoppy beers in really comfortable settings. Both locations are tucked away on tree-lined streets and have some limited outdoor seating.
The Brew – across the river in Pudong is the Kerry Hotel, which houses The Brew. A little out of the way from the rest of the city, it’s worth a subway ride to sample the variety of beers being crafted by Leon, the brewmaster. A little expensive since it sits in a nice hotel, but great ambiance with outdoor seating.
Shanghai Brewing – very reminiscent of a large brewpub in the United States with big outdoor patio and a very Americanized menu in the French Concession location. Beer is decent, but not as uniquely flavorful as Boxing Cat and The Brew. Great spot to sit outside with a group of friends.
Dr. Beer – our least favorite of the Shanghai beer scene. Somewhat characterless ambiance and pricey, but not fantastic beer. We liked strolling through the neighborhood around the restaurant though, lots of great little restaurants.
Tokyo has a nice craft beer scene that we only got to sample a bit of while we were there. The beers in Tokyo are expensive, expect to pay at least 1000 yen ($10 US) for a pint of beer at many of the beer-centric establishments. Still, there is tasty stuff being brewed in Japan that is worth your time and taste buds.
The Watering Hole – a great little beer bar near Shinjuku station, The Watering Hole has a variety of domestic and international brews on tap along with a small selection of bottles. Next door, Tharsis Ridge Brewing Company, is just getting its start.
Baird Brewing – brewing some great IPAs (along with plenty of other ales) is Baird Brewing. They have a few tasting rooms around Tokyo and there was a great selection of beer and tasty pizzas/salads at their Nakameguro Tap Room, adjacent to the Nakameguro station. The Hop Havoc Imperial IPA is extremely tasty.
Devil Craft – not quite making enough of their own beer to pour in the restaurant, Devil Craft keeps its taps stocked with Japanese and international craft beers. The Chicago-style pizza is decent (being from Chicago I can’t say it quite compares) and the tiny downstairs bar is a cozy spot to have a pint. Near the Kanda station.
Ushitora – talk about tiny. This teeny stand up bar (with adjacent larger restaurant) pours a great variety of Japanese beers along with brews from Outsider Brewing. It’s located near the Shimokitazawa station. We stayed in this neighborhood and its a great place to have as a home base or to spend an evening strolling the small streets with plenty of mom and pop restaurants and bars (along with the hipster second hand clothing stores). I had a North Island Coriander Black beer that was incredible.
Osaka also seems to have an up-and-coming beer scene that we only had a quick taste of. The Kansai region has a few lists of craft beer bars and breweries that you can find through beer magazines in Osaka.
Craft Beer Base is a tiny bottle shop and draft beer bar near the Umeda station in Osaka. A healthy selection of Japan and American microbrews are in the bottle case and Japan beers on tap. I was excited to see one of my all-time favorites, Magic Hat Number 9, in the bottle. No different than in Tokyo, the beers are pricey.
Beer in Oceania
In our biggest project to date, we are making our way through both the North and South islands of New Zealand, documenting our beer and wine discoveries for an upcoming book we hope to publish. Although a small country, New Zealand is big on beer and wine and we’re excited to taste it all.
New Zealand has an interesting beer arrangement. Many of the pubs you’ll find in New Zealand are tied to specific breweries rather than carry a variety of taps from many producers. Some of the more common ones you’ll find are Mac’s and Monteith’s Brewing. You can find them both at pubs around the South Island. Mac’s was my preference except for a few of the special brews by Monteith’s.
Pomeroy’s is a brewery, inn and a restaurant all in one. With the feel of an English pub and a restaurant full of locals, Pomeroy’s is doing something right. They have 13 regular taps and a handful of guest beers – all New Zealand craft beers. A few beers from Beer Baroness and Four Avenues are brewed on site.
Cassels & Sons Brewery is part hipster, part family joint with plenty of beer, wine and delicious food to please most anyone. On the outskirts of Christchurch in Woolston, Cassels & Sons serves fresh, unique beers and some great wood fired pizza. The dessert case is a must see if only to drool over it.
Brew Moon Cafe is a cozy spot for a brew and lunch on Highway 1 in Amberly, north of Christchurch and just outside the Waipara wine region. A reasonable priced sampler of their four regular beers is a special treat by a wine maker who converted to brewer.
One of the highlights on the South Island was Wanaka Beerworks, a small microbrewery attached to the Toy and Transportation Museum just outside of Wanaka’s town center. Run by a Belgian who was a well-studied home brewer until moving to New Zealand, there are a host of “regular” beers on tap as well as the brewer’s seasonal line up. The seasonal selection is heavy on Belgian-style beers with higher alcohol – and are delicious. Get there while you can, the brewery is for sale and could change hands at any time.
Sprig & Fern Brewery has a host of tavern locations around Nelson. With an abundance of brews and taps, there is something for everyone. The ciders are also a highlight.
Bucking the traditional pub system, the Free House is just that – free from any brewery ties. Housed in an old converted church with a Mongolian yurt outside for special events, this isn’t your typical beer tasting experience. Lots of local beers on tap and wines by the glass and a cozy atmosphere would make this my local hang out if I lived in Nelson.
Just 10 kilometers outside Nelson is the McCashin Brewery in Stoke. A great old school cafe with lots of taps, coffee, free wifi and friendly staff complement the tasty brews. The Stoke Bomber series has a bit more flavor and more akin to our palates. The $10 tasting tray is well worth the investment.
In Mapau, about 20 minutes from Nelson, sits Golden Bear Brewing. A hop-heavy spot with onsite brewery and lots of taps is owned and operated by a former Californian. Worth the trip both for the beer and the great spot along the water.
Blenheim / Marlborough Area
One of the best beer line ups at a restaurant is in Dodson Street, a German restaurant in a great space right in Blenheim. Renaissance Brewing and 8-Wired on tap along with a host of other guest beers. Both Renaissance and 8-Wired were some of our favorite beers on the South Island.
We first discovered MOA beers living in Cambodia where it was one of the only craft beers distributed there. The MOA tasting room is tucked away among the wineries in the Marlborough area and it’s one of the best tasting rooms in that area. Stop in for a tasting paddle or for a pint.
Some of the best beer selection for take away options is at Wino’s Liquor Store in Blenheim. Take your own liter to be filled or pick up one of the great local beers in the cooler.
There is less of a on-site brewery presence on the North Island of New Zealand, but plenty of bars around the major cities of Wellington and Auckland to try local brews. A new brewery in Martinborough, aptly called Martinborough Brewing, is just getting started and their first release, Black Nectar, was tasty.
Rooster’s Brewhouse is one of the operating breweries in the Hawke’s Bay area. A down-home spot with beer, local wine and food is a welcome addition to this wine region.