Beer drinking has a rich history in Europe — the pastime reportedly dates back 5,000 years — and there’s certainly no shortage of places to find a great brew there, from the monastery breweries of Belgium to those crafted under the strict brewing laws of Germany. But as modern tastes evolve, and the American influence of small-batch brewing and flavor experimentation becomes more widespread, a new school of European breweries is emerging.
From Brussels to Rome, craft brewers are introducing drinks such as India Pale Ales (IPAs) and session beers, as well as infusing spices, fruits and herbs into the brews, all practices that were uncommon in Europe just a few years ago. Step into one of these five exciting breweries on your next trip and you’ll get a taste for the evolving flavors of European brewing.
Vagabund Brauerei, Berlin
Looking to expand outside of the pilsners and lagers that make up the majority of the German beer market, three American home brewers launched Vagabund Brauerei as a community-supported brewery in late 2011. They wanted to focus on brewing top-fermented beers such as the American Pale Ale, Coffee Stout and Szechuan Saison. After a successful crowd-fund campaign, Vagabund opened a small taproom in July 2013 in the city’s western neighborhood of Wedding, where it serves beers from other local microbreweries and an increasing number of its own brews. The community-supported strategy allows backers to buy yearly memberships and directly involve them in the brewing process, and Vagabund has participated in a number of the city’s beer festivals and events in its first year, quickly sealing its place as one of Berlin’s up-and-coming microbreweries.
Brouwerij Troost, Amsterdam
This brand-new brewery opened its doors this month in a former convent in Amsterdam’s western neighborhood of De Pijp. It launched with three beers — a weizen, a blond and an IPA — and hopes to eventually have eight to 10 beers on tap. The brewery was started by the team behind Café Kostverloren, whose burgers are a city favorite, with the aim to produce beers for its café. At Troost, those beers are also available, along with a small food menu, and the space includes an outdoor beer garden that’s perfect for sunny days.
Crate Brewery, London
Crate Brewery opened in London’s increasingly trendy Hackney Wick neighborhood in July 2012 as the area’s first microbrewery and pizzeria. It has since become a hub for local artists and creatives thanks to its menu of delicious microbrews, including its classic Crate Best bitter ale, an aromatic Crate Pale ale and the velvety Crate Stout. Supporting the local art community even further, the restaurant features one-of-a-kind installations, including a bar that was handmade from railway sleepers, a metal-wire chandelier and bedspring light fittings. Crate’s location, inside of a former print factory on a canal, is ideal for warm weather visits, and the restaurant’s live DJs and band nights are other popular draws.
Brussels Beer Project, Brussels
The next time you find yourself in Belgium, skip the abbey ale for a pint of Delta, the first offering from the Brussels Beer Project, a team of innovative brewers looking to infuse creativity and community into its brews by crowdsourcing its flavors. The Delta — a slightly hoppy IPA with subtly fruit notes — was gleaned from four different prototype flavors, chosen during 10 tastings with more than 800 people. And backers to its #beerforlife campaign, to raise funds for a new Brussels microbrewery, earned just that: 12 beers every year, for life. While the team works to get the new microbrewery built, it is brewing at Brussels’ Bier Anders brewery, and you can taste the beer in cafés and restaurants all over the city.
Open Baladin, Rome
Tuscan brewer Teo Musso opened the Baladin brewery in 1996 in his small home village of Piozzo, near to Turin. His inventive beers — such as an Egyptian-style ale infused with ginger, myrrh and orange peel, and a hoppy pilsner brewed in conjunction with Delaware’s Dogfish Head — garnered a following, and Musso brought the beers to Rome in 2009 with the restaurant and bar Open Baladin. The bar, tucked on a small street in the Campo de’ Fiori neighborhood, provides a casual menu of hamburgers and french fries, as well as an impressive list of more than 100 beers from Italy and around the globe. Another highlight of Baladin is its commitment to the environment; as a “farmer brewery,” Baladin works directly with farmers to produce their ingredients and uses solar panels to produce up to 80 percent of the energy used by the brewery.
Photos Courtesy of Brussels Beer Project, Brewroom and Tom Jennings