What’s your poison? Great breweries and distilleries around Europe

by Christine Orford

Enjoying a tipple or two is an essential part of any holiday. While you’re hostelling around Europe, keep an eye out for these cool experiences so you can learn a little more about the local hooch.

Ratsherrn Brewery, Hamburg

Ratsherrn porter, HamburgHamburg makes it very easy to have a very nice time, and this is especially apparent with places like Ratsherrn Brewery. There have been breweries in Hamburg for over 1,000 years and even though Ratsherrn is a late addition, opening in 2012, it’s proud of its city’s traditions. Book a tour to see what goes into making these delicious beers or just sit outside in the beer garden on a sunny day, watching some of the hippest Hamburg residents while away a few hours. The craft beer shop is well worth a look, too, with over 500 varieties of beer on offer from around the world. If you happen to be there on Friday evening, you can even get a few free samples.

Where to stay? Backpackers St Pauli is—you’ve guessed it—right in the heart of one of the most famous neighbourhoods in Hamburg. Perfect if you want easy access to some of the most vibrant nightlife in the city.


Edinburgh Distillery, Edinburgh

Gin cocktailGin has become very popular recently around Europe, but in Scotland they’ve always had a soft spot for the fragrant spirit. Although it’s not one of the most well-known brands in the world, Edinburgh Distillery Gin come in lots of exciting flavours and if you do the tour, you can take home a little bottle of the original for yourself. There’s also an option for you to make your own gin and customise the label – it’s pricey, but if you’re a gin-lover, it might be worth it.

Where to stay? Luxury meets hostelling with Edinburgh’s Kick Ass Hostel. There are free city tours, events and entertainment, as well as bed linen and luggage storage, making your stay that little bit easier. The area’s hopping on Friday and Saturday nights, which means it’s great for partying but maybe it’s not the right place if you want an early night.

Cantillon Brewery, Brussels

Inside cantillon Brewery, BrusselsIf there’s one thing Belgians love, it’s beer. Come to the Cantillon Brewery in Brussels, where they’ve been brewing for over 100 years, and see where they brew their own varieties of the distinctly Belgian faro, lambic, gueuze and kriek, using the time-honoured techniques. Depending on the time of year, month, week or day you can see a different part of the brewing process take place. It’s open every day except Wednesdays and Sundays, you don’t have to book a tour in advance and the cover charge includes a glass of beer.

Where to stay? Brussels 2GO4 Quality Hostel is right next to Gare de Nord – one of Brussel’s main stations – so it’s a great base for exploring the city. The hostel itself has a cool lobby and common area and there are computers you can use any time you like.

Teeling Distillery, Dublin

Teeling Distillery, DublinWe know that the Guinness Brewery and the Jameson Distillery might very well already be on your list if you’re visiting Ireland’s capital city. If you want to try something a little different, head to the Teeling Whiskey Distillery. Although the Teeling family have been making whiskey since the 1720s, this Dublin distillery is brand-new. Tour tickets vary in price depending on what you want to taste – opt for a whiskey cocktail for the cheapest ticket or go all out and have three of their fanciest spirits.

Where to stay? You can hardly beat the location of The Times Hostel – Camden Place. It’s one of the nearest hostels to Teeling’s and offers some lovely extras like free luggage storage, free nightly events and some reasonably priced day trips, too.

Visit Carlsberg, Copenhagen

The entrance to Carlsberg BreweryAlthough most of Carlsberg’s production has been moved out of the House Brewery Jacobsen, this is still worth a look. The entrance fee is DKK 85 and covers two beers—not bad value by Copenhagen standards. There are quite a few different activities to keep you busy during your trip, including horse-drawn carriage rides, guided tours and beer tastings. Be warned though, each additional activity costs a little extra, but it’s worth it for beer nuts.

Where to stay? Woodah Hostel is, like Copenhagen, effortlessly cool. Unlike Copenhagen, it’s not outrageously expensive. Come here for super laid back vibes in a place that supports local, Fairtrade and organic produce, and has the odd free yoga class.

Please remember to always drink sensibly and safely and to follow the local laws as you travel; and never feel pressured to drink if you don’t want to.


Thanks to Todd Nienkerk, Matt Lewis, Troels Dejgaard Hansen, William Murphy, Bex Walton and Björn Ognibeni for use of their great images under the Creative Commons license.

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