Oktoberfest is currently in full-swing, with hordes of people donning their lederhosen and dirndls and flocking to Munich to celebrate its 205th year. From centuries-old traditional breweries to modern, multimedia "experiences", we have selected ten of the best brewery tours around Europe in honour of this world-famous folk festival's dedication to beer.
1) Harveys Brewery - Lewes, UK
(Source: Andrew M Butler, Flickr)
Harveys Brewery is the oldest independent brewery in Sussex and earlier this month was named 'Brewery of the Year' in the 2016 Good Pub Guide. Still in the Harvey family after eight generations, the history of the brewery dates back to 1790. Its impressive Victorian Gothic tower is a Lewes landmark which has been adapted over the past 150 years to house a modern brewing plant whilst still producing ale made with locally-sourced ingredients. Harveys remains true to its traditions and continues to deliver much of its beer by horse-drawn dray cart. Due to its endearing popularity there is a two-year waiting list for brewery tours, which are conducted by a member of the Brewing Room.
2) Heineken Experience - Amsterdam, Netherlands
(Source: J. Griffin Stewart, Flickr)
Established in Amsterdam in 1864, Heineken is one of the three largest beer producers in the world. Though the original brewery closed in 1988, it lives on as the Heineken Experience, featuring a museum and several hands-on attractions. Visitors learn the history of the Heineken family and the architecture of the 19th century brewery buildings, as well as the chance to view the impressive brass beer tanks and visit the old horse stables. There are also screenings of historical beer commercials and even the chance for tour-goers to make their own music video. The Experience's crowning glory is a multimedia exhibit where visitors 'become' a beer and get subjected to heat, shaken up and sprayed with water!
3) Guinness Storehouse - Dublin, Ireland
(Source: Jeff, Flickr)
Founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759, St James's Gate Brewery stretches across 26 hectares and produces 2.5 million pints of stout every day. The only part of the site open to the public is the Guinness Storehouse, which rises seven impressive storeys high around a stunning central atrium and is shaped like an incredibly large pint glass. One of Ireland's leading attractions and a veritable cathedral for lovers of the black gold, visitors learn much about the history and making of the humble stout pint through interesting presentations and interactive exhibitions. The tour ends in the top floor Gravity Bar where visitors have an opportunity to sip "the best pint of Guinness in the world", whilst taking in magnificent panoramic views of Dublin.
4) Erdinger Brewery - Erding, Germany
(Source: Martin Strattner, Flickr)
Given Oktoberfest is underway, it would be remiss not to include a Bavarian brewery on this list. Family-run Erdinger Brewery, based just outside of Munich in the small Ducal town of Erding, is the world's largest wheat beer brewery and marries traditional recipes with state-of-the-art technology. The town's brewing heritage dates back to the 16th century, and since 1886 the site has been the headquarters of Erdinger Weissbräu. Educational and entertaining, this three-hour tour gives visitors a complete insight into how Erdinger Weissbier is brewed and bottled and of course includes tasting opportunities at the end.
5) Stella Artois Brewery - Leuven, Belgium
(Source: Max Mayorov, Flickr)
Stella Artois has been brewed in the Belgian city of Leuven since 1366. Recognising that some people prefer to drink beer rather than learning every detail about how it is made, the brewery offers different tours for different levels of interest. The Stella Artois Classic Tour takes visitors from the brewing hall, through the fermentation process to the filling lines. After the tour, tour-goers hit the brewery's Den Thuis bar. The Stella Artois Beer Tour is far more in-depth, taking visitors through the different steps of the brewing process followed by a beer sampling session in the bar. The Stella Artois Draught Tour also shows the various stages of the brewing process, and is followed by a draught course.
6) Budweiser Budvar Brewery - České Budějovice, Czech Republic
(Source: Navin75, Flickr)
The Budweiser Budvar Brewery began producing beer in 1895. This tour offers an entertaining and engaging introduction to the process of beermaking, encompassing stops at the malthouse, fermenting cellars and the bottling plant, as well as a Gothic Renaissance-style cabin, which features an exhibition on medieval brewing. The tour concludes with a 3D film about beer. Visitors can quench their thirst with one of the eight varieties of Budvar beer and enjoy an excellent dining experience at the renowned Masné krámy restaurant.
7) Visit Carlsberg - Copenhagen, Denmark
(Source: Mark Jensen, Flickr)
The Old Carlsberg Brewery from 1847 has been converted into a modern tourist attraction. Visitors to Visit Carlsberg will experience a packed tour featuring a series of unique displays and interactive exhibitions, the working Jacobsen brewery, the world's largest collection of beer bottles, horses and stables, art and architecture. The tour ends in the bar located on the first floor of the brewery, where tourists are free to sample some of the beer with a view of the brewery's classic copper vessels. Throughout autumn, Visit Carlsberg has a number of Halloween-inspired activities for families, including a treasure hunt in their basement.
8) Maison Leffe - Dinant, Belgium
(Source: OliBac, Flickr)
For almost eight centuries Leffe has been brewed in Dinant, and tour-goers will learn about the craftsmanship behind its beer-making through interactive experiences, touchscreens and tasting. The tour leads visitors through the corridors of an ancient monastery, which has today been converted into a four-star hotel, and offers impressive views of the Meuse valley. Foodies have the chance to indulge in beer food pairing, which combines some of Leffe's nine varieties alongside a selection of meats and cheeses. At the very reasonable adult tour price of €7 (kids go free), guests to Maison Leffe also receive a free gift.
9) Fuller's Griffin Brewery - Chiswick, UK
(Source: Christopher Bulle, Flickr)
Standing on the banks of the River Thames, Fuller's Griffin Brewery stands proudly as London's last remaining family brewery, and dates back to 1828. Its flagship beer is the malty London Pride, the UK's best-selling cask-conditioned ale, which has been brewed on the site since the 1950s. On an average day, 640 barrels of beer are produced and visitors are guided through the industrial process. Two tours are on offer: the £12 tasting tour and the £8 non-tasting tour, with both offering a fascinating glimpse into British beer-making history.
10) Beck's Brewery - Bremen, Germany
(Source: Phil, Flickr)
Beck's is the world's best-selling German beer, and is brewed on the banks of the River Weser in the northern city of Bremen. Two-hour tours of the brewery are run in conjunction with the tourist office, and these provide a wealth of fascinating information about its history and the art of beer brewing. Visitors get to experience the museum, the ingredients store and brewhouse, as well as getting up close to the malt silos and fermentation tanks. Following the tour, a beer-tasting session takes place in the guest room, with the opportunity to drink three glasses of Beck's and Haake-Beck beer.