Already tried all the amazing beers on our bucket list? Then you're probably wondering what's next in beer, and where true beer innovation is happening. While we're always in favor of supporting your local breweries, it's fun to explore what's happening around the world. We asked our crew of beer experts—all Certified Cicerones—for their thoughts on the most exciting craft beer scenes outside the US. Here are their picks for the beer-producing nations you should definitely have on your radar.
"The craft beer movement is a global revolution, and while America is undoubtedly at the forefront, the craft breweries are thriving in many countries. One surprisingly vibrant scene is in Italy, where a younger generation is rebelling against the long-entrenched wine culture. Brewers in Italy are adventurous and they do not shy away from creative ingredients and practices. It can be difficult to find bottles of Italian craft beer on American shelves, but the pale ale from Birra Del Borgo makes an occasional appearance (the brewery also collaborated with Dogfish Head on the My Antonia imperial pilsners)."—John Verive (Beer of Tomorrow)
"I have found that the beers from Italy are extremely complex and interesting. There was really no beer tradition to speak of in Italy, unlike Germany, England, Belgium, etc, so the Italians can essentially brew whatever they like. The ingenious brewers from Birra del Borgo, Birra Baladin, Birraficio del Ducato, and Pausa Cafe have been brewing beers with local ingredients that are intended to be shared with friends while dining. One of the beers that I have been enjoying is Etrusca, based off of a 2,800 year old Etruscan recipe. It was brewed by Birra del Borgo, Birra Baladin, and Dogfish Head but each brewery's version was fermented differently—one using copper, one in wine barrels, and one in terra cotta. The differences in flavors between the three fermentations is a fun and tasty adventure."—Bill Carl (Southern Wine & Spirits of Hawaii)
"I'm very excited about the beer scene in Italy. They are proving to be creative, not for shock value, but to combine flavors that work harmoniously together. If anything, many Italian beer styles are heavily influenced by Belgian beers, but incorporate Italian ingredients. LoverBeer makes some fantastic sour beers, of which my favorite is Nebiulin-a, a barrel aged sour beer fermented with Barolo grape must. Baladin is another brewery putting out amazing and interesting beers like Nora, brewed with kamut grain and spices, and Elixir, fermented with a unique whiskey yeast that dries it out and accentuates the dark fruit and spice flavors. A nice bonus is that Italian beer bottles tend to be works of art themselves!"—Judy Neff (Pints & Plates)
Denmark and Norway
"A few not so obvious countries have been making some great craft beer in recent years and show no signs of slowing down; one of the major ones being Denmark. Prior to the past decade or so, Denmark's brewing scene was dominated by Carlsberg; a mass produced European lager packaged in signature green glass bottles. Recently however several craft breweries have been opening up throughout Denmark, most notably; gypsy brewers Mikkeller and Evil Twin. While not necessarily always brewing in Denmark proper, they do originate from the area and have been making some of the most ambitious and interesting beers in the world. In addition to Mikkeller and Evil Twin; To Ol, Xbeeriment, and Kissmeyer are all producing great craft beer."—Ryan Spencer (Bailey's Taproom)
"Scandinavia is intriguing right now. Several years ago no one would have looked at this area of the world. Now with breweries like Mikkeller, Evil Twin, Nogne, and Haandbryggeriet creating some delicious and unique beers, people are taking notice. Experimenting with barrel aging their beers in cognac, calvados, port, and aquavit barrels make them unique and showcases their European heritage. Evil Twin from Denmark does a funky, sour brett beer named Femme Fatale as well as an Imperial Stout called Even More Jesus that's worth tracking down. Haandbryggeriet from Norway utilizes regional berries such as crowberries, blueberries, and sea buckthorn in their special berry collection beers and also brews a porter that's aged in aquavit barrels. Depending where you live some of these beers can be hard to locate but well worth the hunt!"— Melissa Long-Higgs (Nevada Beverage Company)
"After Canada, more American beer is exported to Sweden more than anywhere else in the world. The influence of American craft beer in the country has inspired a craft movement of its own—the past few years have produced exciting, young upstarts like Brekeriet and Omnipollo (whose American-inspired beers like the Double IPA Nebuchadnezzar are top-notch); brand-new beer bars from Mikkeller and BrewDog have arrived in Stockholm (although, one of the world's great beer bars, Akkurat, has been been around for nearly 20 years); and just this spring, Brooklyn Brewery opened the doors to Nya Carnegie, a Stockholm-based brewery collaboration with Carlsberg Sweden. But being a Swedish craft brewery isn't without its challenges—there's a government-owned liquor store monopoly called Systembolaget, and it's the only place in the country allowed to sell alcohol greater than 3.5% ABV (anyone who's dealt with Utah's state liquor stores knows how that goes). A couple of weeks ago, Systembolaget announced some new rules that make it a challenge for small, rural breweries to get their beer on shelves. As a result, local breweries like Brekeriet are pulling stock from shelves, and will focus more on export outside of Sweden. It's a bittersweet thing—for us in the US, it means we'll get more chances to taste Swedish craft beer, but for the Swedish brewers, it's a lost opportunity to showcase in their home country."— Jenny Pfafflin (Cicerone.org)
"With a set of beer styles so richly ingrained in tradition and history, not to mention strict laws of what you can and CAN'T put in beers, Germany, surprisingly, is at the forefront of quite a craft revolution. The Germans take a lot of pride in the beers they produce, and a vast majority of those remaining relatively unchanged for hundreds of years. Why not? They should. There is something to be said about a brewery that remains in the same family with the same centuries-old recipe that is still surviving during an ever-increasing battle for shelf space. For a country like Germany to branch out and create new fruity hop varieties like Mandarina Bavaria and Huell Melon and take a leap of faith with beers that mirror those of big, overly hopped, citrusy American ales, it's enough to make the bravest of German choke on their Schnitzel. But the risk seems to be paying off. As German beer consumption is at a 20-year low, newer players in the German brewing scene are seeing an increase in sales of modern day, experimental recipes. A couple to keep an eye on over the next five years include Eric Toft of Schonram and Thorsten Schoppe of Schoppe in Berlin. Two guys slightly breaking the rules while staying within the confines of The Reinheitsgebot."—Andrew Hicks (Cinder Block Brewery)
England and Scotland
"I travel to England at least once a year, and every time I go, especially in the last five years, I'm more impressed with the small brewery scene. The British have one of the greatest historic beer cultures, and the new brewers are building on top of it with great new ideas and integrity. Specifically, I'm loving the enthusiasm for cask, the return of the British IPA, and the pairings with fantastic British cheese. I've had great times spending entire afternoons at bars like The Rake, or Cask Pub and Kitchen, trying beer after beer from Britain's new brewers and I'm astounded by the variety, creativity, and quality of brewers like The Kernel, Darkstar, Magic Rock, and Siren."—Jesse Vallins (The Saint Tavern)
"Exciting new breweries are popping up all over England and Scotland. The Kernel Brewery from London is producing delicious and interesting new beer and are especially talented when it comes to American style hoppy brews such as Pale Ales and IPAs (these beers don't always travel well, so judge accordingly if buying in the States!). Magic Rock Brewing out of Huddersfield, England is another one to try. From Scotland, seek out Harviestoun Brewery and their Scotch barrel aged Ola Dubh series of old ales. They're peaty, smoky, and richly dense black brews that are best sipped slowly. They age the beer in several different expressions of Scotch, so grab several different bottles to try side by side with friends. Other excellent Scottish breweries to keep any eye out for include Black Isle Brewery, Cairngorm Brewery, Fyne Ales, Innis & Gunn (widely available in the States), and Traquair House (also widely available)."—Chris Cohen (San Francisco Homebrewers Guild)
"Scotland's craft beer scene is going crazy lately! BrewDog has upped the anty for so many breweries worldwide, and you can see the change coming through other breweries like Fyne Ales as well. Fyne Ales keeps the classics around while throwing out a brutal IPA and a rich, smoky stout here and there as 'brewer's specials.' I can't wait to go back and see what else they've created in the next few years."—Becki Kregoski (Bites 'n Brews)
"The craft movement is really alive and well in the land of Guinness. The younger generation has decided to give Ireland an upheaval. They are a growing tech community, which is bringing in an influx of other cultures which in turn is bringing out the best in the Irish. Up and comers like College Green, Porterhouse, Trouble, and the microbrewery best known for a beer called Galway Hooker are starting to give the land of Guinness a little run. Naturally, they are focusing on Irish reds, dry stouts, and lagers, but some standouts like Porterhouse's Oyster Stout, which uses oysters from Ireland, and College Green's Belgian Blonde, from Belfast, are really changing the landscape."—Corey Esoldi (Societe Brewing)
"The Ireland beer scene is exciting right now. From fewer than 5 breweries in the country 10 years ago to over 45 now, the small country known for stout is now back in the beer game and re-imagining its beer traditions. There are lots of session beers coming from the breweries—a nice respite from 10% ABV Russian Imperial Stouts and super-hopped double IPAs that were recently in vogue in the US. Resurrecting traditional styles but putting a modern spin on them; dry-hopped Citra Irish pale ale, whiskey barrel-aged stout, and coffee porters are among the styles that are coming from the brewers. Be on the lookout for 8 Degrees, from an Aussie and Kiwi now living in Ireland, and Franciscan Well, one of the original craft breweries in Ireland built on the site of an 18th century monastery in Cork City in 1998."—Hannah Davis (Molson Coors UK)
"It's certainly not a new one but Belgium has got the most exciting craft beer scene outside of the US. Countless breweries making endless variations of classic styles are sprinkled throughout the country with different beers coming from every region. Trappist and Abbey beers, Farmhouse beers, spontaneously fermented sour beers of every kind, wood barrel aged beers, extreme beers, microbrewery beers, megabrewery beers—the Belgians do it all and do it well. Everyone should try the holy Trappist beers at least once as well as the devilish Delirium Tremens and Duvel. The Flemings (Dutch speaking Belgians) and Walloons (French speaking Belgians) each have highly cultivated gastronomical cultures as well and beer is an integral part of it. Witbier with mussels and pommes frites anyone?"—Chris Kline (Schnuck Markets)
"Canada, specifically Quebec, has a great history of Belgian inspired craft breweries, with Unibroue starting in that tradition in the early nineties, and a newer generation playing in between those lines. Dieu du Ciel, Brasserie Dunham, Le Trou du Diable—there are dozens of amazing takes on Trappist styles, while not shying away from North American hops and flavor profiles."—Bill Bonar (Taste)
"I really enjoy a lot of the Franco-Belgian influenced beers out of Canada from producers like Dieu du Ciel! and Unibroue. Some favorite beers include La Fin du Monde from Unibroue and Heavenly Feijoa, a collaboration between New Belgium and Dieu du Ciel! Both beers are made in the Tripel style, remarkably different from one another and embody everything I love about rich Tripels."—Brett Robison (Republic)
"New Zealand has a particularly exciting craft beer scene. The island nation is filled with creative and resourceful brewers and hop growers producing some of the most sought-after varieties, and when they come together great beer happens. From the Yeastie Boys' unbelievably fragrant Gunnamatta IPA spiced with Earl Grey tea to the inventive brews from Wellington's Garage Project, Kiwi beer culture is on the cutting edge. It's a shame they're on the other-side of the world—finding fresh Kiwi beer in the U.S. is no easy task."—John Verive (Beer of Tomorrow)
"There are some great hops coming from New Zealand (the white wine-like Nelson Sauvin, the fruity Motueka), and lots of breweries are popping up and putting them to good use. Moa and Epic have diverse portfolios, while newer breweries like 8 Wired and Yeastie Boys are showcasing their indigenous hops (8 Wired's Saison Sauvin, for example). And there are many more that don't distribute to the states...yet."—Adam Sivits (13 Virtues Brewing)
"A few years ago foreign hops started bursting into the craft beer scene. New names like Motueka, Green Bullet, and Nelson Sauvin brought exotic tropical fruit flavors of mango, gooseberry, and passion fruit to ales usually dominated with their more citric counterpart. Soon after these hops from New Zealand arrived beers from their blossoming craft beer scene followed. New Zealand breweries such as 8 Wired, Epic (not to be confused with the Utah/Colorado based brewery) and Yeastie Boys are all producing pale ales and IPAs that rival the Americans that inspired them. It's not just all hops either: the Epicurean Coffee & Fig Imperial Oatmeal Stout is dark, roasty, and complex concoction that would pair well with nearly any dessert."—Tyler Morton (Taste of Tops)
"I have always been intrigued and excited about the future of craft beer in Israel. Over the past few decades, Israeli beers have been known to be light, easy drinking lagers. But times are changing quickly when it comes to craft beer over there. Styles now range from IPAs to Baltic-style porters. In fact, Alexander Beer in Israel recently won a gold medal in the Robust Porter category at the 2014 World Beer Cup. While it seems they are following the lead of American breweries, the rich soil and delicious vegetables and fruits of the country can be used to create amazing beers that have never been used in beer before. The sky is the limit for the young craft beer movement there. A couple breweries to look our for are Dancing Camel and Alexander."— Aaron Shebah (Nevada Beverage Company)
Thanks to New Beer Distributors for letting us camp out and take beer photos!
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