Before you say something, we know this is a contentious topic that is likely to stir up a passionate debate. Beer is one of the oldest, most beloved beverages on Earth, so any glaring omissions
or unjustified inclusions on this list will likely incur the wrath of our brew-drinking readers (especially if they’ve already had a few when they read this). But in honor of beer’s universal appeal, we’d like to give a special shout-out to some of the finest brewers in the world (and believe me, we did our homework).
The winner: East African Breweries Limited
While many Africans prefer homebrewed concoctions to manufactured ale, the continent is also home to several premium breweries (including three of the five Guinness facilities). One of the most popular establishments, East African Breweries, is also the most lucrative; in 2005, it became the first company in East Africa to reach a net worth of $1 billion. The brewery’s flagship brand, Tusker lager, sells roughly 26,495 gallons every year. The brewery also produces pilsner, extra stout and waragi, a traditional Ugandan spirit derived from millet.
Runners-up: Other African favorites include South African Breweries, Three Horses Beer (Madagascar), and Bralima Brewery (Democratic Republic of Congo).
The winner: San Miguel Corporation
How do you determine the finest beer in Asia, the planet’s largest continent and home to nearly 4 billion people? Well, let’s start with volume. Headquartered in the Philippines, the San Miguel Corporation is Southeast Asia’s largest food and beverage company with roughly 17,000 employees and more than 100 facilities in Asia. Longevity is another key factor: San Miguel has been in business since the 1880s, and managed to endure despite political strife and economic insecurity that has plagued the Philippines over the years. Finally — and most importantly — there’s the crisp, refreshing taste that has made San Miguel one of the most popular beers in the world. Runners-up: Other Asian beers that have made a splash with worldwide drinkers include Kirin (Japan), Tsingtao (China), and Singha (Thailand).
The winner: Malt Shovel Brewery
No, not Foster’s. Malt Shovel is the brewery behind James Squire, an innovative, highly popular beer named for an 18th-century convict who eventually became Australia’s first successful commercial brewer. Each of the seven James Squire varieties is a masterful concoction; Chancer Golden Ale combines toasted wheat and barley with Amarillo hops, while the Jack of Spades Porter includes five different malt varieties. Malt Shovel has taken home the top prize (‘Champion Australasian Brewery’) at the Australian International Beer Awards on two separate occasions, among other awards.
Runners-up: Other popular Aussie beers include Mountain Goat Beer, J. Boag & Sons, Matilda Bay Brewing Brewery
The winner: Trumer Pils
When it comes to European beer, where do we even start? Belgium or Germany? Ireland or Czech Republic? Well, according to the European Beer Star awards (one of the most prestigious beer competitions in the world), arguably the best beer in Europe comes from Trumer Brauereis in Salzburg, Austria. Since European Beer Star began handing out trophies in 2004, Trumer has snagged four gold awards – no small feat, considering the 2012 competition alone featured more than 1,300 entrants from 45 different countries. Trumer has also been recognized at other competitions like the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup and Australian International Beer Awards.
Runners-up: Pilsner Urquell (Czech Republic), Hoegaarden (Belgium), Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan (Germany)
The winner: Pelican Pub & Brewery
The finest microbrew ale in North America can be found in the tiny seaside town of Pacific City, Ore. At least, that’s according to the North American Beer Awards, an annual competition that receives more than 1,000 entries every year. Pelican has racked up more than 40 NABA medals in the last five years alone, including 18 gold medals. At the last ceremony, this brewery received the top prize for its Scotch ale, barley wine, Belgian-style ale and foreign-style stout.
Runners-up: Other breweries that cleaned up at recent NABA ceremonies include Boston Beer Company, Montana Brewing Company, and (gasp!) Anheuser-Busch.
The winner: Cerveza Quilmes South America’s beer scene is not quite up to par with the rest of the inhabited world. At the 2012 World Beer Cup, only three awards went to South American breweries – and Argentina’s Cerveza Quilmes took home two of them. Brewed since the late 19th century, the beer has evolved into a national symbol. It helps that Cerveza Quilmes is one of the main sponsors for the Argentinian soccer team. The award-winning brewery may have some competition on its hands in the coming years, as beer brewing has recently become a hot trend among South Americans (particularly in Brazil and Uruguay).
Runners-up: The list of few-and-proud South American breweries also includes Companhia Antarctica Paulista (Brazil), Parbo Bier (Suriname) and Cervecería Potosina (Bolivia).
Honorable Mention: Antarctica
To date, there are no established breweries on the icy continent of Antarctice. But it bears mention that Australian Nail Ale, the most expensive beer in history (recently auctioned at $780 a bottle), was rendered from a block of Antarctic ice collected during an excursion to the icy wasteland.
By Brad Nehring