Much like champagne, Scotch, and bourbon, many of the most delicious beers in the world have a long history and association with a particular place. Here’s a look at some famous beers and even some lesser-known styles, complete with the 15 areas that cultivated them.
1. RAUCHBIER // BAMBERG, GERMANY
Pronounced “rowx-beer,” this barley-based lager’s name means “smoke beer” in German because the older kiln method of drying malt over open fires produced a smoky flavor that was passed onto the beer. Heller-Brau Trum KG produces a number of rauchbiers in northern Bavaria, and their public drinking hall has been around since the 15th century.
2. ALTBIER // DUSSELDORF, GERMANY
This copper-colored ale is one of the oldest styles of beer in the world—alt means “old” in German, and the name came into prominence with the creation of lagers in the 16th century. The capital of the North Rhine-Westphalia state is closely associated with altbier, and once or twice a year local brewers produce a secret seasonal beer called sticke alt or latzenbier.
3. FRUITED LAMBICS // BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
Belgium’s capital and the surrounding area produces a number of beers that are brewed through spontaneous fermentation using the yeast that’s circulating in the air, which creates a dry, sour beer called a lambic. Adding fruit like raspberries or cherries turns the brew into a tart, fruity concoction called a fruited lambic.
4. PILSNERS // PILSEN, CZECH REPUBLIC
This city of nearly 170,000 in western Czech Republic, formerly called Bohemia, produces a hoppy, straw-colored lager that spawned legions of loving tributes and copycats throughout Germany, Europe, and eventually the United States.
5. KÖLSCH // COLOGNE, GERMANY
Germany’s fourth-largest city is famous for this bright, all-barley pale ale. The Kölsch Convention ensured that only two dozen regional breweries in the Cologne area can legally call their beer kölsch.
6. SAISON // TOURPES, BELGIUM
A traditional farmhouse beer from the Hainaut province in the Wallonia region of Belgium, saison means “season” in French. These beers were brewed in the winter months for seasonal summer agricultural workers. It’s a light, dry, fruity beer that re-ferments in the bottle.
7. KELLERBIER // BUTTENHEIM, GERMANY
A “cellar beer” from the area just south of Bamberg in eastern Bavaria, kellerbiers are unfiltered lagers with a reddish color, caramelized malts, and very little carbonation due to being matured in wooden casks with a loose bunghole (that’s spundloch in German).
8. RADLERMASS // DEISENHOFEN, GERMANY
This mixture of a light blonde lager (helles or pilsner) and lemonade or lemon soda is also called radler or russ. Innkeeper Franz Xaver Kugler allegedly created the concoction in the early 20th century so riders on his bike trail would have something to drink. To quench these athletes’ thirst, he mixed his dwindling supply of beer with lemon soda and called it radlermass (in German, radler means cyclist and mass means liter). Its British cousin is the shandy, a combination of beer and either lemonade or ginger ale.
9. BRUIN BIER // OUDENAARDE, BELGIUM
These brown beers are popular in the Dutch-speaking portion of Flanders in northern Belgium. Brown beers are made when a younger batch is blended with an older, more sour version; cherries (krieken) can also be added to the mixture, and the batches mature for between three months and a year.
10. VIENNA LAGERS // MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
These amber lagers originated in the capital city of Austria, but an influx of Austrian and German immigrants into central Mexico in the late 19th century helped turn Mexico’s capital into a hotbed of the style, which remains a local favorite to this day.
11. ENGLISH PALE ALES // BURTON-UPON-TRENT
The East Staffordshire city of Burton-Upon-Trent claims the distinction of being the originator of the pale ale. A reddish amber, somewhat hoppy beer, the local pale ale is an all-English brew that is milder than both American and English IPAs.
12. EISBOCKS // KULMBACH, GERMANY
If you like powerful German brews, try an eisbock, or ice strong beer, brewed in Kulmbach and served in the cold winter months. A famous eisbock is G’frorns, which is German for “something frozen." As the temperature of the beer is dropped at the end of the maturation process, the water content diminishes, and the potency of the brew nearly doubles.
13. DORTMUNDERS // DORTMUND, GERMANY
A robust helles lager made for the steel and coal workers along the River Ruhr, Dortmunder originated in the industrial area of Westphalia in the 19th century and is a full-bodied lager that can reach five percent alcohol by volume.
14. GOSE // LEIPZIG, GERMANY
Taking its name from a river in Saxony, Gose nearly disappeared due to the wars of the 20th century but has come back. The Gosebraueri Bayerischer Bahnhof in Leipzig is one of the few breweries that exports this sour, spicy brew to the U.S.
15. BERLINER WEISSE // BERLIN, GERMANY
This tart, low-alcohol beer (2.5 percent ABV) is typically consumed in the warm summer months with an additional shot (schuss) of a flavored syrup, usually woodruff or raspberry. Due to a controlled designation of origin decree, this weisse can only legally be brewed in Berlin.