The Top 10 European Beers

Europe can be considered the birthplace of modern beer, so it’s not a surprise that a lot of the world’s best beers are found on this continent. This list is not complete without the popular Guinness; still, we should get to know why the other lesser-known European beer brands deserve to be on this list.

Guinness

Guinness is one of the most famous beer brands and an indelible part of Irish culture and tradition. If you’ve enjoyed the exported edition of Guinness, you will find the homegrown Irish original a totally different experience. This stout may have an acquired taste, but once you’ve tasted “real” Guinness, you’ll be glad you’ve dared to do so, as it is a beer like no other. If you happen to be in Ireland or about to fly there, sipping from a pint of Guinness is a recommended experience you shouldn’t miss.

Who Makes Guinness?

The current version of Guinness is produced by Diageo, a British alcoholic beverage company that also owns other popular alcohol brands like Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, and Baileys. Guinness was first produced in a brewery founded by Arthur Guinness, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who introduced the popular alcoholic beverage in 1759. [1] In 1997, the brewery merged with a manufacturing company called Grand Metropolitan in order to create a new company, Diageo.

The original Guinness beer is brewed at the St. James’s Gate Brewery, and this same brewery is still used to produce the Irish version of the beverage. Besides being a brewery, The St. James’s Gate Brewery is also a tourist attraction where people can learn more about Guinness’s history and how it is made.

Guinness is arguably the best-selling drink in Ireland, as the St James’s Gate Brewery produced about 2 billion euros worth of beer per year in the said country alone. Worldwide, Guinness is brewed in more than 40 countries, and these exported editions of the beer are distributed in more than 120 countries.

Rugenbrau

Aside from chocolates, the Swiss Army knife, and the beautiful Alps, Rugenbrau is one of the best things Switzerland has to offer. Fresh-tasting and bittersweet, Rugenbrau leaves your palate clean, but you will be craving more once you take a sip of this beverage.

Who Makes Rugenbrau?

Rugenbrau is produced by Rugenbrau AG, a brewery that was founded in 1866 and is located in Matten bei Interlaker (Matten near Interlaken), a village and municipality in Switzerland. Rugenbrau AG is a family-owned brewery that was originally owned by Christian Indermühle, a Grand Councilor (a member of the parliament established in the Swiss canton of Bern) who gave the ownership of the brewery to his sons Carl and Albert after his death.

Rugenbrau AG produces more than 3 million liters of Rugenbrau beer every year, and their product is considered to be one of the most popular in Switzerland. It is one of the few family-owned breweries that are still operating in Switzerland even after centuries of its founding.

Augustiiner

This double-fermented lager is brewed by the oldest independent brewery in Munich called Augustiner-Bräu, which is believed to have been around since 1328. This clean, crisp lager (with 5.2% alcohol by volume) has a sweet aftertaste that would be appealing to many people who are looking for a different flavor from the usual European beers.

Who Makes Augustiner?

Augustiner, as mentioned previously, is brewed by Augustiner-Bräu. Historians are still debating on the actual founding year of the brewery, but it was first mentioned by name in 1328. According to records, the brewery was founded within an Augustinian monastery that settled outside the city walls of Munich in 1294. The Augustinian monks who produced beer in the brewery would later distribute their product to neighboring cities, towns, and villages.

In 1803, the Augustinian monastery was dissolved, and the ownership of the brewery was passed to the government before being sold to an unknown private company. The brewery would be acquired in 1840 by Anton and Therese Wagner, a couple that had knowledge of brewing. The couple’s company would later be known as Augustiner-Bräu Wagner KG, a brewery that still owns and produces Augustiner today.

Pilsner Urquell

There’s no question about it; the Czechs are experts when it comes to beer making and beer drinking. This bottom-fermented beer is arguably the best that the Czech Republic has to offer when it comes to alcoholic beverages. Its alcohol content is 4.4%, which is pretty low compared to other beers, but it makes up for that with its otherwise full body and fantastic flavor.

Who Makes Pilsner Urquell?

Pilsner Urquell is brewed by Plzeňský Prazdroj, a. s. or Pilsner Urquell Brewery, which was founded in 1842 in Plzeň, Bohemia (the largest historical region of the Czech Republic). An interesting fact about this brewery is that they were the first ones to produce a pale lager (which they branded as Pilsner Urquell), a type of lager beer that would eventually become one of the most popular beer variants in the world. In fact, two-thirds of the beer produced in the world today are copies of the original pale lager.

Paulaner

Aside from Augustiner, Paulaner is another great Munich-made beer that’s also become popular in Germany and other European countries. Made by Paulaner Brauerei, the beer contains 5.5% alcohol. Many of its fans would say that it is a great wheat beer with a sweet finish.

Who Makes Paulaner?

The brewery behind Paulaner, Paulaner Brauerei, was founded in 1634, which makes it one of the oldest beer breweries in Germany. The brewery was established by the Paulaner Order, an order of monks in Munich that originally produced beer that was given to the poor or to pubs within the city.

The first mention of the name “Paulaner Brewery” was from a letter written on February 24, 1634, wherein civilian brewers were complaining to the city council about the competition from the Paulaner Order. Although the brewery was around before 1634, many consider the said year to be the founding date of the Paulaner Brewery.

Berliner Kindl

Berlin might not be a popular German city for beers compared to Munich, but the city still offers one of the best beers in Europe, and this beer is Berliner Kindl. This clear, golden beer leaves a dry and decently bitter finish. This beer is perfect for parties and get-togethers with friends.

Who Makes Berliner Kindl?

Berliner Kindl is produced by Berliner-Kindl-Schultheiss-Brauerei GmbH, a brewery that was founded in 1842. For many years. Berliner Kindl was managed by a larger brewing company called Brau und Brunnen AG, but in 2004, the said brewing company was purchased by Dr. August Oetker KG, a German multinational company that produces a variety of products, including cornflakes, frozen pizzas, and cake mixes. Dr. August Oetker KG would later integrate Berliner Kindl into the Radeberger Gruppe, the largest brewery group in Germany.

Newcastle Brown Ale

Newcastle Brown Ale is a British alcoholic beverage that has a nutty, sweet, malty taste despite its foam (also known as “head”) fizzing out too quickly the moment it’s poured into the glass. There is a popular phrase that is used as an excuse for people who want to drink Newcastle Brown Ale secretly, and this phrase is, “I am seeing a man about a dog.” So, if there is someone in Britain who tells you that they are going to see a man about a dog, they are likely going to a pub to drink Newcastle Brown Ale. Because of its association with the said phrase, Newcastle Brown Ale is often called “Dog.”

Who Makes Newcastle Brown Ale?

Newcastle Brown Ale was originally brewed in 1927 by Lieutenant Colonel Jim Porter, a third-generation brewer who owned Newcastle Breweries. Jim Porter experimented with creating the perfect brew for three years before perfecting his recipe. Porter’s Newcastle Breweries would later merge with another brewery, Scottish Brewers, to create a much larger company, Scottish and Newcastle plc, that would later make Newcastle Brown Ale one of the best-selling beers in the United Kingdom.

In 2008, Heineken Brewery, a company that produces another popular European beer that we will discuss later, purchased Scottish and Newcastle plc through a joint deal with multinational brewer Carlsberg, thus gaining rights to produce Newcastle Brown Ale. [2] Besides the United Kingdom, Newcastle Brown Ale is also brewed in Petaluma, California, by the Lagunitas Brewing Company, a subsidiary of Heineken Brewery.

Heineken

This lager’s premium quality has made the Netherlands-based brewery Heineken N.V. one of the most successful companies or brands in the world. It has 5% alcohol by volume, and it is crisp, golden, and clear, with a thick head and a strong aroma. The Heineken beer is produced on a massive scale, and it is reported that Heineken N.V. produces about 24 billion liters of the beverage annually.

Who Makes Heineken?

Heineken N.V. was founded in 1864 by Dutch brewer Gerard Adriaan Heineken in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Heineken started his brewery when he bought an already existing one called “De Hooiberg” in Amsterdam. In 1874, Heineken changed the name of the brewery to Heineken’s Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij (HBM) and opened his second brewery in Rotterdam.

Heineken N.V. is still partially owned by the Heineken family, who controls 23% of the brewery. The company expanded by acquiring other breweries, including Scottish and Newcastle plc, the producer of Newcastle Brown Ale.

Jupiler

Jupiler is a Belgian beer that has good color and head, and its taste has hints of hay and grass, which then produces the beer’s signature “earthy” flavor. This beer even leaves a sweet aftertaste. Even though it can be considered a pricier beer in Europe compared to others, Jupiler is still the highest-selling beer in Belgium, as it has a 40% share of beers sold and consumed by volume in the country.

Who Makes Jupiler?

Juliper is produced by Piedboeuf Brewery, which is located in Jupille-sur-Meuse, a district of the city of Liège in Belgium. Although the current version of Jupiler was introduced in 1966, historians believe that the name of the beer and its recipe was first mentioned in 1853, which was about thirty years after the founding of Piedboeuf Brewery.

Before the version of Jupiler that we know today was produced, there was a Jupiler beer that was released in 1950 called “Jupiler Urtyp.” Then, the current version was introduced in 1966 as “Jupiler 5,” with the “5” in its name indicating its 5% alcohol content. The “5” in the name would later be erased, and “Jupiler 5” would become known simply as “Jupiler.”

Westvleteren

Considered by many as one of the best beers in the world in terms of taste and quality, Westvleteren is not widely available in many countries. Instead, you would have to go to Belgium’s Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus, a Roman Catholic abbey found in Westvleteren, to purchase this product. Sweet, spicy, and malty with a very strong alcohol content (10.2%), the Westvleteren is adored by many due to its rarity and quality.

Who Makes Westvleteren?

Westvleteren is produced by the brewery of the same name that was founded in 1838 at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus. The original brewers of the beer were Trappist monks who originated from the Mont des Cats monastery in France, which was founded in 1831.

Today, the brewing of the Westvleteren beer is still done by the Trappist monks, although they employ secular workers to perform different manual labor tasks. There are about 25 Trappist monks that reside at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus, but it is believed that only five of them run the brewery, and there are five additional monks that help in the bottling of the beer. Because only a few people run the brewery and produce the beer, Westvleteren is only brewed and sold in small quantities. [3]

Taking Beer Directly from the Brewery?

Now that we have talked about the top 10 European beers, you might be lucky to live near one of the breweries for these beers. If you do, you might find yourself in a situation where you want to take the beers directly from the brewery. But, if you live far away from the breweries we mentioned above, you don’t have to worry, as there are already plenty of specialty stores and online shops today that offer beers that can be delivered straight to your door.

References

[1] Reed, L.W. (2019, December 31). Arthur Guinness: The Man Behind the World-Famous Beer. Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). Retrieved November 10, 2023, from https://fee.org/articles/arthur-guinness-the-man-behind-the-world-famous-beer/

[2] ABC News. (2008, January 27). Carlsberg and Heineken buy Scottish & Newcastle. ABC News. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from https://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=4195730&page=1

[3] wanderw6. (2017, March 24). Westvleteren 12: Scoring Two Cases of the Elusive “Best Beer in the World.” Wanderwiles. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from https://wanderwiles.com/2017/03/24/westvleteren-12-scoring-two-cases-of-the-elusive-best-beer-in-the-world/

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