America might be home of the Double IPA and the Maple Syrup and Coffee Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, but that doesn’t mean you should limit your intake to brews produced in these 50 states. Far from it. Some of the world’s best beer is produced outside the confines of our country. While you need a passport to get some of that beer, a solid selection is available at most stateside bottle shops. If you don’t venture out of the tangerine pale ale aisle, let us help. These are some of the best foreign beers out there. Each is worth tracking down—even if you’ll need a plane ticket.
Let’s get funky right off the bat. Fantôme doesn’t do mild. While we’d recommend all their saisons, including the ones brewed with green tea or chocolate, we’re going with their most classic for this list. Fantôme Saison is a fantastic example of what a saison can be. You get intense funkiness (do you like barnyards and stinky cheese?), bright citrus notes, and a crisp, clean finish. Trust the ghost.
Few things in life are as perfect as sipping a Hefe at a beer garden on beautiful day. And while Germany, the land of the beer garden, produces numerous fine wheat beers, our favorite is the one from Weihenstephaner. The fluffy white head shades the creamy body from the sun as you work on a pretzel until you need a sip. When you take one, this Hefeweiss packs all the classic notes of banana and clove you’d expect. Just a bit sweet and all around perfect.
Not every beer on this list requires crossing a body of water to drink; our neighbors from the north have plenty of superior suds to offer. None of those suds are finer than Dieu du Ciel’s extremely roasty imperial stout, Péché Mortel. The beer is loaded with intense flavor. You get smokiness; you get bitter coffee; you get dark chocolate. None of it is even remotely trying to hide.
If you find yourself in Belgium and you stumble across a building with a funny little yellow man on the outside, stop in. The adorable De Dolle character is like a North Star in your search for great beer. While we recommend all their beers (Dulle Teve is fantastic) we’ll stick with the classic—and best—Oerbier. While the Strong Dark Ale is sweet with lots of toffee notes, it somehow remains perfectly balanced. And like many great Belgian beers, it drinks far too easy for its ABV.
If you’re familiar with Siren, it’s probably through their collabs with heavy hitters like Hill Farmstead and Cigar City. If you haven’t tried one of the beers they brew on their own, however, you’re missing out on some great offerings. Our favorite is Calypso, a dry hopped Berliner Weiss that pairs some herbal and citrus hop notes with that classic Berliner Weiss tartness. If we could get this all the time, it would be our go-to summer day sipper.
A half-decade ago, Westvleteren 12 was named the best beer in the world. The title kicked off a global race to get to Saint Sixtus Abbey, which is located in a quiet part of the Belgian countryside. That hoopla may have calmed down a touch, with beer fans opting to stand in lines outside the likes of Tree House and Hill Farmstead, but the beer is just as impressive. Westy 12 is bubbly, sweet, and wonderfully balanced. You’ll notice a lot of raisin and caramel as it kicks your ass far quicker than you expected.
We’re gonna sneak this one in right after that Westy because, well, the story goes that this is the same beer. (You can get the story here.) Having had both side-by-side, we admit they’re damn similar. While slightly different, St. Bernardus Abt 12 has one thing on “the world’s best beer”: You can actually find it. Yes, the beer that is like the best beer is easily found in bottle shops across the country. We recommend finally trying a one.
Norway knows good beer. Need proof? Check out Nøgne Ø, the country’s largest craft brewery. You can put their epic concoctions toe-to-toe with the best here and they’d more than hold their own. Our personal favorite is God Jul, a Winter Warmer they first brewed to get ready for Christmas in 2014. You’ll get lots and lots of dark fruits, roasted malts, and a surprising amount of hoppiness. It’s a big, chewy beer perfect for sipping next to a roaring fire. Look for it during the holidays.
It’s almost impossible to pick just one beer from Cantillon for this list. They are, perhaps, the most legendary brewery in the world. And since we are limiting our selection to just one beer (trust us, this list could be all Cantillon) we’ll go with our favorite: Fou’ Foune. The apricots mix perfectly with the classic lambic profile to deliver a tart, fruity, funky, and all around perfect beer.
There’s a reason this Double IPA from Ireland made the list of our 100 favorite beers of all time. Packed with a hazy look and creamy mouthfeel, the Irish hop monster can go toe-to-toe with any of the American heavyweights. The aroma is super citrusy, the flavor is balanced, and it goes down far easier than the almost 9% ABV would suggest.
You may think of Japan as the land of easy, refreshing lagers, the kind that pair well with sushi and delicate foods, but Sankt Gallen is one of the breweries changing that. In fact, with their Imperial Chocolate Stout, they’ve gone completely opposite that. The stout is bold, chocolatey, surprisingly hoppy, and even kind of effervescent. Bonus points if you can somehow find the special edition, which comes with a chocolate cup to drink the beer out of.
A lighter beer might be the perfect option for relaxing under the summer sun in Germany, but that doesn’t mean Deutschland can’t crank things up when they want. Proof? Snag a bottle of Schneider & Sohn’s prized Weizenbock. Schneider Weisse Tap 6 Unser Aventinus has a sweet profile that’s complimented by some yeasty notes. It’s a stellar bock you can find at many stores in the States.
Omnipollo is a Swedish brewery pushing boundaries as far as some of the most experimental stateside brewers. If you want a good example of that, keep an eye out for their Noa Pecan Mud Cake Imperial Stout. It smells like dessert. Packed with a lush, decadent mouthfeel, chocolate and pecan notes, and just enough heat to remind you it’s 11%, the beer is a sweet and boozy treat. Oh, and Omnipollo has amazing artwork, which you can read about and see here, so go ahead and save the bottle.
Trappistes Rochefort 10 is an incredible beer often passed by at bottle shops in favor of something new. Well, one of these days, skip the latest dry hopped IPA and snag it. You won’t be sorry. The most amazing thing about this beer is how well it hides the alcohol. And while that’s a very Belgian trait, the monks at Brasserie de Rochefort do it better than almost anyone else. Full of dark fruit notes and toffee sweetness, this beer will tantalize your taste buds while its alcohol sneaks up on you.
From the shores of Italy comes an English Barleywine with some American audacity. Got that? Good. What you have here is a sweet, strong barleywine with almost no carbonation. It’s complex, in your face, and as rich as an Italian dessert. And at 14% ABV, it will knock you on your ass faster than any liqueur-topped affogato.
Another place it’s hard to pick just one beer from, Drie Fonteinen is another Belgian staple. While all of Armand Debelder’s lambics are stellar, we absolutely love his Oude Kriek. The Kriek lambic, meaning it was brewed with cherries, smells like a juice drained from sugar-coated cherries. The taste is tart, earthy, and full on jam. You can’t go wrong with any bottle you can procure from Drie Fonteinen, but this is the one we love the most.
France is the home of the Bière de Garde. So while many American breweries have brewed examples of the style, it’s nice get such a quality one straight from its homeland. Brasserie Au Baron, located in Gussignies, France, produces a soft, flavorful Bière de Garde we can’t recommend enough. Cuvée des Jonquilles is delicate, honey sweet, and incredibly refreshing.
Unlike many beers on this list, you shouldn’t have a hard time coming across a bottle of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. But don’t let its ubiquity scare you off; Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is one hell of a beer. In fact, it’s one of the finest examples of a straightforward, English oatmeal stout. It’s easy to drink, roasty and sweet, and a pub beer that won’t leave you stumbling home.
Beer Geek is good. Beer Geek Vanilla Shake is better. Way better. We actually had this beer from the Danish brewery when we were at their short-lived outpost in Tokyo. Go figure. But it does go to show you the sort of global domination the brewery is looking for. It’s not hard to find Mikkeller beers stateside, but Beer Geek Vanilla Shake can be tricky. If you find it, prepare for a milkshake in a can… a 13% ABV milkshake in a can.
Smoked beers aren’t for everyone, but if you’re a fan, you will find none finer than this. Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier is an unfiltered Rauchbier that smells a bit like a campfire and tastes an awful lot like smokey meat. Is that a bad thing? Not if you ask us.