Craft beer seems to be quite the in thing these days, so whether you’re a complete novice who doesn’t know a hop from a hogshead, or a card-carrying CAMRA member; quench your thirst with these brilliant brewery breaks in the UK and Europe.
1. Bruges, Belgium
Belgium is a Mecca for beer lovers. The Belgians produce a wide variety of beers from blonde to brown and even red beer. Belgium’s most popular tourist destination is Bruges, a historic town located near the North Sea coast and just 40 minutes by train from Brussels. The last active brewery in Bruges city centre is De Halve Maan (that’s Half Moon to you and me!). Beer has been brewed on this site since the 1850s and the brewery is still run by the Maes family to this day. You can take a tour round the brewery and see how their signature beer Brugse Zot is made, learn about the history of brewing in Bruges and even handle some of the ingredients. There is a room full of beer glasses of all shapes and sizes (each type of Belgian beer is served in its own specially designed glass which is meant to improve the flavour of the beer!) As the brewery is housed in a medieval building, expect steep, narrow stairs and passageways as you make your way round. However, the climb to the top of the building is rewarding as there are spectacular views across the town. A tour of the brewery cost €8.50 and includes a glass of Brugse Zot in the tap room afterwards. This beer comes straight from the brewery and is unfiltered which means it is cloudier than usual but retains more of its taste. Also brewed on-site, Straffe Henrik is a “tripel” beer so is a lot stronger, not for the faint-hearted! While you’re in the area, why not pay a visit to the Historium Brugge where you can explore the city’s history then relax with a beer in the buildings trendy bar – The Duvelorium which overlooks the town square.
Fascinating beer fact • The most expensive beer in the world is Vielle Bon Secours from Belgium and costs around £40 a pint!
2. Burton-on-Trent, UK
Burton-on-Trent is known as the home of brewing in the UK. At one point over 30 breweries existed in the area, so it’s only fitting that the National Brewery Centre is located here on the site of the old Bass Brewery. You can explore the story of the Bass family and the social history of the area as well as take a look at the collection of vintage vehicles and steam trains. Guided tours take place twice a day and include 3 beer tastings. Beers brewed on site include Victoria Pale Ale which is a light beer with a golden colour and Masterpiece which is a smoky, spicy IPA named after one of the museums shire horses!
Book with Super Break to stay for 2 nights at the 4* Hallmark Hotel Derby Mickleover Court and receive a three-course dinner on the first night of your stay plus wine or afternoon tea for just £94pp. The hotel is ideally located for visits to the National Brewery Centre, the Peak District, Alton Towers, Derby and Nottingham
Fascinating beer fact
• The study of beer and beer making is called Zythology
3. Cologne, Germany
For most people, the place to visit for beer in Germany is Munich but Cologne (or Köln) has a thriving scene of its own based around Kölsch. This is a light, straw-coloured, lager-type beer which is only brewed in Cologne and is closely guarded by brewers and residents alike. Cologne’s old town streets are filled with bars, most serve just one brand of Kölsch. My personal favourite is Brauhaus Sünner im Walfisch, a tiny bar and restaurant between the old market square and the Rhine promenade. Larger breweries such as Früh, Gaffel and Sion have their own pubs which usually serve food as well. Try the local speciality of pigs knuckle with red cabbage washed down with a few beers. Unusually, Kölsch is served in small measures of 0.2 or 0.3 litres (around half a pint) but waiters in the larger bars will carry around a tray of beer, ready to replace your empty glass! Make sure you find time for a visit to the city’s enormous gothic cathedral, Germany’s most visited landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cologne is also a great base to explore Western Germany with the Ruhr industrial region, Bonn and Frankfurt just a short train journey away as well.
Fascinating beer fact • The largest beer festival anywhere in the world is Munich’s Oktoberfest which attracts over six million visitors every year
4. York, UK
How can we ignore what’s on our own doorstep? York boasts a thriving craft beer scene with loads of great pubs and several breweries based in and around the city. One of the newest is Brew York, a brewery which has only been in operation since 2015 but has brought something unique to the York beer scene. You can enjoy a beer in their tap room which is right in amongst the brewery apparatus! Located just off Walmgate (look carefully, it’s easy to miss!), the smell of the brewery hits you as soon as you step through the door; a pungent aroma of hops and yeast which takes a while to get used to. About half a dozen beers are usually available, try Little Eagle which is an easy-drinking IPA or their signature beer Brew York, Brew York, a hoppy pale ale with a golden brown colour and a fruity taste. Brew York also run tours of the brewery on Fridays and Saturdays which cost £8.00 and includes 4 samples. During your stay in York don’t miss some of our other great attractions such as York Minster, The National Railway Museum and York Dungeons. York is full of history, great for shopping and has a huge variety of restaurants as well. It’s also an ideal base for getting out and about and exploring the North Yorkshire countryside.
Fascinating beer fact • In medieval times, beer was safer to drink than water as the brewing process killed bacteria
5. Dublin, Ireland
A visit to Dublin wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t have a taste of “the black stuff”, and where better to try it than the Guinness Storehouse? Since opening, the Guinness Storehouse has become one of Dublin’s premier attractions and has welcomed over four million visitors so far. Interactive exhibits tell the story of the Guinness family and brewing in Dublin. You can even pour your own pint (make sure you let it rest!) and enjoy typical Irish cuisine in the restaurant where Guinness is also used as an ingredient. If you’ve never tried Guinness, it is a black stout with a creamy head and a distinctive burnt taste. Guinness apparently doesn’t travel well and always tastes better in Ireland! Located on the banks of the River Liffey, the Guinness Storehouse is within easy reach of the city centre and is also near Phoenix Park and the National Museum of Ireland. Make your break to Dublin a Super Break and add tickets for the Guinness Storehouse to your hotel booking.
Fascinating beer fact • The Czech Republic drinks the most beer of any country in the world. Thirsty Czechs consume, on average, over 140 litres per person each year
6. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh’s beer scene may just be one of the hippest in the country. Craft pioneers Brew Dog opened their second bar in the city in 2011 but Edinburgh’s brewing heritage dates all the way back to the 12th century. On an Old Town Brewery Tour you’ll learn all about this history and explore Edinburgh’s exciting new breweries, bars and bottle shops. The tour is led by an expert local guide and includes 8 Scottish beer tastings. Our Edinburgh beer breaks also include a 2 night stay at the Ten Hill Place Hotel in central Edinburgh, dinner on the first night, a food & drink guide to Edinburgh and a host of free goodies!
Fascinating beer fact
• The world’s strongest beer is called Snake Venom and has a frankly terrifying ABV of 67.5%!