The Top 10 European Beers

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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.  It’s rich history, diverse cultures, and artisanal traditions have fostered an unparalleled brewing heritage, making it a pilgrimage site for beer enthusiasts worldwide. From the dark, inviting pubs of England to the lively beer halls of Germany, each country offers unique brews that reflect its history, geography, and spirit. In this post, we’ll embark on a flavorful journey through Europe, exploring the top 10 beers that every aficionado should try. These selections represent not just the taste preferences of millions but also the brewing artistry that has been refined over centuries.

1.  Guinness (Ireland)

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.  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.

2.  Heineken (Netherlands)

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.

3.  Pilsner Urquell (Czech Republic)

PilsnerUrquell logo

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.

4. Stella Artois (Belgium)

A premium lager with roots dating back to 1366 in Leuven, Stella Artois is celebrated for its malty middle and crisp finish. Its heritage and quality exemplify Belgium’s esteemed brewing culture.

Who Makes Stella Artois?

Stella Artois is crafted by Anheuser-Busch InBev, one of the world’s leading brewing companies, headquartered in Leuven, Belgium. The legacy of this premium lager dates back to 1366, with its roots in the Den Hoorn brewery in Leuven. Over the centuries, Stella Artois has become a symbol of Belgian brewing tradition, celebrated for its quality, heritage, and the art of brewing. It embodies the meticulous brewing techniques that have been refined over generations, making Stella Artois a flagship lager known worldwide.

5. Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (Germany)

Weihenstephan at "Haus der 100 Biere" in Berlin

Produced by the world’s oldest brewery in Bavaria, this wheat beer stands out with its smooth malt background, vibrant carbonation, and notes of clove and banana. It’s a perfect representation of the German love affair with beer.

Who Makes Weihenstephaner?

The Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier is produced by the Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, located in Freising, Bavaria. Recognized as the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world, its history dates back to 1040. The brewery is part of the Weihenstephan Abbey, originally a monastery, and is now affiliated with the Technical University of Munich. This institution combines centuries-old traditions of brewing with the latest scientific research, ensuring each bottle of Weihenstephaner embodies the pinnacle of German brewing craft.

6. Duvel (Belgium)

A strong golden ale, Duvel is known for its spicy, dry character, high carbonation, and complex fruity and hoppy aroma. It packs a punch at 8.5% ABV, showcasing the Belgian flair for strong, flavorful ales.

Who Makes Duvel?

The Duvel Moortgat Brewery, founded in 1871 by Jan-Leonard Moortgat, is the creator of Duvel. This family-owned brewery is situated in Puurs, Belgium, and has grown over the decades to become one of the country’s most esteemed breweries. Duvel, which means “devil” in Flemish, was named for its surprisingly potent alcohol content. The Moortgat family’s dedication to quality and innovation has made Duvel a benchmark for Belgian golden ales, showcasing the complexity and finesse of Belgian brewing.

7. La Trappe Trappist Quadrupel (Netherlands)

One of the few Trappist breweries outside Belgium, La Trappe produces this rich, warming quadrupel. Its flavors of dark fruit, caramel, and spices, combined with a potent alcohol content, make it a sipping beer of contemplation.

Who Makes La Trappe Trappist Quadrupel?

La Trappe Trappist Quadrupel is brewed by De Koningshoeven Brewery, located within the walls of the Onze Lieve Vrouw van Koningshoeven Abbey in the Netherlands. Founded in 1884, it is one of the few Trappist breweries outside Belgium. The monks of the abbey oversee the brewing process, adhering to the strict criteria of Trappist beer production. Their devotion to quality and craftsmanship is evident in the complex flavor profile of La Trappe Quadrupel, making it a distinguished example of monastic brewing.

8. Chimay Blue (Belgium)

Another Trappist masterpiece, Chimay Blue is a strong dark ale with a complex bouquet of fresh fruit, roasted malt, and hints of spice. Its full body and rich, silky texture are a testament to monastic brewing excellence.

Who Makes Chimay Blue?

Chimay Blue is produced by the Chimay Brewery, which is located within the Scourmont Abbey in Chimay, Belgium. Since 1862, the Trappist monks of Scourmont have been brewing beer according to monastic traditions and under their strict supervision. The sales of their beer support the monastery’s charitable works and community efforts. Chimay Blue, known for its rich and complex character, is one of the premier Trappist beers, reflecting the spiritual and brewing heritage of the monks.

9. London Pride (England)

Fuller’s London Pride is a classic English pale ale that balances malt and hops perfectly, offering a smooth, well-rounded flavor profile with notes of biscuit, caramel, and a soft hop bitterness.

Who Makes London Price?

London Pride is brewed by Fuller, Smith & Turner P.L.C., more commonly known as Fuller’s Brewery. Located in Chiswick, West London, Fuller’s has been a part of Britain’s brewing heritage since 1845. The brewery is famed for its dedication to traditional brewing methods while embracing innovation. London Pride, their flagship ale, is a quintessential English pale ale that represents the culmination of Fuller’s brewing expertise, offering a balanced, flavorful experience that has become a benchmark for the style.

10. Saison Dupont (Belgium)

This farmhouse ale is a Belgian specialty, offering a blend of spicy, fruity, and earthy flavors with a dry, refreshing finish. Saison Dupont is a celebration of the saison style, which was traditionally brewed in farmhouses in the Wallonia region of Belgium.

Who Makes Saison Dupont?

Saison Dupont is brewed by Brasserie Dupont, a family-owned brewery located in Tourpes, in the Hainaut province of Belgium. With origins dating back to 1759, the brewery has become synonymous with the saison style, a farmhouse ale originally brewed in the winter months for consumption during the summer harvest. Brasserie Dupont’s commitment to traditional brewing methods and quality ingredients has made Saison Dupont a standard-bearer for the style, celebrated for its balance of spice, fruitiness, and hop bitterness.

Honorable Mentions

The following beers are also widely popular and considered some of the top beer in Europe.  These fall into MentalItch’s honorable mention category:

Rugenbrau

Rugenbrau Brewery

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.

 

Paulaner

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

More details Logo of the Berliner Pilsner brand

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.  Besides the United Kingdom, Newcastle Brown Ale is also brewed in Petaluma, California, by the Lagunitas Brewing Company, a subsidiary of Heineken Brewery.

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

Westvleteren XII with gift packaging and glasses

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.  

Final Thoughts

Europe’s beer landscape is as diverse as it is historic, with each brew telling a story of its origins, traditions, and the people who crafted it. Whether you’re a seasoned beer connoisseur or a curious explorer, these 10 European beers offer a taste of the continent’s rich brewing heritage and the creativity of its brewers. So, raise a glass and toast to the enduring art of European beer-making!

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