10 Great breweries in Europe

Pints served at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin | Photo by jvdwolf
Pints served at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin | Photo by jvdwolf

10 Great breweries in Europe

by Karen Bradbury and Shereece Spain
Stripes Europe

Having left American soil for Europe, you’re adapting to countless new things: customs, languages, currencies, food and so much more. However, an area in which it’s easy to embrace all that newness is in the world of beer. You may know and love the taste of your favorite back-home brews, but why not use your time on the continent getting to know the ales of the Alsatians or the whites of the Walloons?  To help you add some hops to your pit stops, consider this handy beer bucket list to guide you to some of our favorite cities and towns.     

Stiegl – Salzburg, Austria

Within the walls of an old malt house, an exhibition traces the history of beer brewing as practiced in these surroundings since the 15th century. Following a group or private tour of the premises, visitors sample three different beers and receive a gift from the brewery shop.

What to sample: The Stiegl-Paracelsus Bio-Zwickl, an amber-shaded, naturally cloudy organic beer made of an ancient grain cultivated and malted at the Stiegel’s own farm.

Chimay – Bourleurs, Belgium

A list of Europe’s breweries wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Trappist monasteries and their highly-sought products; unfortunately, few such breweries open their doors to the public. “The Espace Chimay” is a visitor center offering a self-guided tour revealing the secrets of these coveted brews and a second monastery product which pairs surprisingly well with beer: cheese. The Poteaupré Inn, an affiliated pub, restaurant and hotel, is the place to sample Scourmont Abbey’s cheese, beer and other culinary delights.

What to sample: Try “Chimay Gold,” a Belgian pale ale available exclusively at the Poteaupré Inn. 

Stella Artois – Leuven, Belgium

Stella Artois, the best-known Belgian brand on the global market, is brewed in a state-of-the-art facility offering English language tours to private visitors on weekends. The two-hour tour entails extensive walking, but participants are richly awarded at the end with tastings of fresh, ice-cold pours and a generous gift bag with samples to take home. Pre-booking your tour is essential and can be done online through the city’s tourist office.

What to sample: If your tastes run to fruity Lambic beers, look for the range of La Becasse cherry and raspberry variations.

Fuller’s – London, England

Fuller’s are the makers of London Pride ale and other tasty brews. A tour through the Griffin Brewery promises history and heritage, an insight into the making of ales, and superb sampling. The guided tour lasts about 1 and a half hours and concludes with a tutored tasting of some of the brand’s finest ales.
What to sample: The Fuller’s 1845 is an unfiltered strong ale with plenty of malt, nutty and caramel notes.

Bitburger Brewery | Photo by Tobias Arhelger 

Bitburger – Bitburg, Germany

The Bitburger Brewery, founded in 1817, is one of Germany’s biggest producers of pilsners. See how the most frequently tapped beer in all Germany is made on the guided hour-long “Bitburg World of Beer Brands” tour covering the brewing process from ingredient selection to bottling.  The cost of admission includes two beverages of choice and beer’s best friend, a pretzel.

What to sample: The company’s most recent creation, a Premium Kellerbier, is light-bodied, malty and slightly herbal in style. Can a commercial brewery get this style right? You be the judge.

Paulaner – Munich, Germany

This brewery established by monks in 1634, is one of the six breweries to provide beer for the Oktoberfest. In addition to its classics such as Weißbier and Hell, the forward-looking company is willing to experiment with new tastes, too. A tour through the brewery lasts 35 minutes and includes both a welcome drink and a seasonal beer paired with a savory snack.

What to sample: A Paulaner Ur Dunkel will take you back to the time when dark beers were the preferred drink of Bavarians. Mahogany brown in color, it serves up notes of spice and a hint of dark chocolate.

Guinness – Dublin, Ireland

Dublin’s number one attraction isn’t a brewery tour in the traditional sense but rather an exploration of the brand. The journey begins by stepping into the world's largest pint glass and exploring seven floors with interactive experiences fusing Guinness’ brewing heritage with the history of Ireland itself. At the end of the tour, visitors are treated to a pint of perfection in the rooftop Gravity Bar.

What to sample: Behind St. James’ gate lurks the taproom, the place to sample exclusive beers crafted by experimental brewers. Who’d ever believe that a Nitroatmeal Stout or a Hibiscus Helles could be a product of Guinness? 

Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam | Photo by Itsanan Sampuntarat 

Heineken – Amsterdam, Netherlands

This wildly popular tourist stop is much more than a tour, reflected in its name “The Heineken Experience.” Learn how the brew born in 1864 has conquered the world by means of a one-and-a-half-hour self-guided tour through the premises of a former brewery offering plenty of interactive and sometimes quirky exhibits. The tour concludes with the chance to indulge in two fresh pours on the famous Dutch brand or to try your own hand at pulling the perfect pint.

What to sample: If you’re traveling to Amsterdam around the holiday season, be on the lookout for the highly-rated Affligem Noël Christmas beer, full of dark fruity sweetness and spice.

Estrella Damm – El Prat de Llobregat, Spain 

Learn all about the light and easy-drinking Mediterranean beer that’s still brewed to the original 1876 recipe of August K. Damm by means of a brewery tour concluding with a tasting of Estrella and other beers produced by one of Spain’s biggest brands.

What to sample: An Inedit, the love child of a collaboration between brewmasters, a top chef and sommeliers; this Belgian white ale has all the typical notes of coriander, licorice and orange peel.

Żywiec – Żywiec, Poland

A side trip southwest of beautiful Krakow brings you to a museum set in the former aging cellars of a brewery. Following a guided tour through the 160-year history of the facility and the beers produced there then and now, visitors can sample the beer and buy souvenirs. A tour through the brewery itself is available as an add-on. Reservations are essential.

What to sample: For something a little different, ask for a Żywiec Białe, the brewery’s take on a Belgian white ale. 

Note: Establishments are taking measures to protect patrons during the pandemic. This can include mandatory mask-wearing, restrictions on the number of guests and online reservations. Check the establishment's website prior to attending.

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