Beer is the ultimate social drink and there’s no better time to enjoy it than in October, a month during which, all over the world, the old, the young, the fat, the slim, the good, the bad and the ugly all come together for ‘Oktoberfest’-inspired beer-appreciation marathons.
But only Munich, Germany, is the home of the original Oktoberfest, where festival-goers begin gathering in front of immense beer-branded tents in the early hours of the morning, eagerly awaiting their turns in packed communal drinking areas. It’s the Mecca of brew, imitations of which have sprouted all over the globe, even in places as far away as Canada, Vietnam, Australia and Argentina.
In a tribute to Oktoberfest, The Travel Word brings you a selection of seven special brews from different parts of the world. Although beer is the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, finding hidden gems requires a bit of digging, so we asked some of our WHL Group local partners across the globe to bring forth their beers of choice. Here are seven of the more surprising ones.
(For more just-as-surprising information about local drinks – and lots about local eats, check out our Culinary World Tour of Local Food.)
Mexico’s Cerveza of Choice
According to Karem Matamoros, former WHL Group local partner in Los Cabos, Baja Blond is the Mexican beer locals love. The fledgling brewery opened in 2007 in the Mexican state of California Sur and has already made its marks in the highly competitive world of brewing. Their hallmark is the Baja Blond “Cream Ale,” described as having a light golden colour, a whole-bodied flavour and a good balance of sweet and bitter. Locals abide by it and take great pride in promoting the only brewery in their state.
Travel to Los Cabos, Mexico, the home of Baja Blond, with Karem.
Ghana’s Ethnic Beer
Marian Thompson, the whl.travel local partner in northern Ghana, gave us the scoop on pito, which is Ghana’s artisanal, village beer. It is brewed from fermented sorghum (also known as guinea corn) in the northern parts of the country, where it is very popular and widely consumed. Its production methods have remained traditional and are therefore quite labour-intensive, providing a number of people with a local livelihood. Traditionally, a calabash bowl is used to share pito, the ultimate refreshment under the scorching Ghanaian sun.
Malta’s Favourite Malt Beverage
If you’re wandering through Malta’s history-imbued villages, do stop at a bar to try some brew. Simonds Farsons Cisk PLC is the Maltese beer company that Marco Attard, the WHL Group local partner in Malta, swears by. The veteran brewery opened in 1928 and has never changed the recipe or production process of its best-selling Cisk Lager, a golden-coloured, bottom-fermented beer with a distinctive and well-balanced character.
Travel to Malta with Marco for a taste of Cisk Lager.
Albania’s Best Brew
When in Albania, do as the Albanians do, which is drink lots of local brew. Albania’s Birra Tirana is the beer that the WHL Group’s local travel expert, Laura Payne, prefers. Only the freshwater sources of Tirana’s surrounding mountains are drawn upon to manufacture this prized drink. Critics seem to agree it has a nice colour with moderate carbonation. The aroma is smooth and richly malty.
Brazil’s Carioca Beer
Luiz Renato Malcher, the WHL Group local expert in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, says that Cariocas (people from Rio) love their pints of Itaipava beer. Why? For starters, it is lighter than the others and can be drunk in larger quantities on a hot sunny day without making you feel full. It is best served trincando, as locals say, which means near-frozen. Known to be a light-bodied, soft and rounded beer, it is distinctively sweet and grainy on the palate. To enjoy a chilled Itaipava on Rio’s beach strip with a nice view of the sea is a classic Rio moment.
Travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with Luiz and learn where to get the best Itaipava.
Ecuador’s Draft Duo
A palpable rivalry reigns between Ecuador’s two best lager beers. Even Maria Fernanda Cabascango and Sebastian Sierra, the WHL Group local partners in Quito, Ecuador can’t come to a consensus. Maria vouches for Pilsener, whereas Sebastian is a staunch defender of Club. Pilsener pours with a pale yellow colour and a creamy white head. It is brilliantly clear and has a distinct corn edge to its flavour. Club beer, while also a clear lager, picks up a noticeable earthy and peppery flavour from the hops. Guess you’ll have to visit Quito to decide for yourself!
Travel to Quito, Ecuador, with Maria and Sebastian, and plan for Pilsener-or-Club blind taste test.
The Argentinean Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest in Argentina – a country known more for its fine wines than its beers – is one of the largest outside of Germany. At this time of year especially, the village of Villa General Belgrado (in the province of Cordoba in the Argentine Pampas) draws large crowds interested in its cervezas artesanales (craft beers). Wandering the streets of Villa General Belgrado with giant beer steins (or mass as the Germans call them) in hand, Oktoberfest-goers are transported into a little piece of Germany in the southern hemisphere. The town was founded by two Germans in 1930 and their influence is obvious; buildings have characteristically Bavarian facades, shops sell handmade strudel and chocolate, and microbreweries supply craft beer.
Cynthia Ord, the manager at WHL Assist, is currently headquartered in Argentina and reports that the variety and quality of local craft beers is impressive; you can find lagers, stouts and all sorts of creative brews. During the two-week Oktoberfest celebration, when hordes of people enjoy spring weather and asado (barbecue), the goal is to keep your stein full of something until the small hours of the morning, reminding you that you are in Argentina after all.