The Top 5: Best Pub/Brewery in 2019

Tokyo Kanda's Devil Craft hit home, hard. 

The best and the worst thing that has happened to me this year is Netflix. I can see why people pay for a streaming service like this. And it's not because it has an amazing content base either; places like fmovies have the same stuff AND better. It's also not because you have a better quality resolution-wise; I watch it on my phone on a screen that looks like an elephant stamped on it on it's way to the charpi. It's because the experience is lightning fast. The time from opening netflix to watching something is incredibly quick. No Ads, no nothing, no bullshit, straight to content. It's even quicker when you shut the app and open it up. You are back to watching whatever you were watching in nano-seconds.

Fortunately, netflix wasn't the only thing I discovered this year (albeit late, admitedly). I was able to get out beyond the realms of my lab-table-life to travel, to see how other people live, act and behave, and most importantly, got to see how people brew. In a way, I am happy how 2019 panned out. 2018 was more about a certain project, the team and getting work done. The year before that was more about getting that certain project to run from scratch and getting it funded. This year was more about sustaining the culture that was set before and let it run in automode. That opened up some time for exploration, indulgence and hedonism. 

Stats are looking pretty good; 4 different countries, 5 beer festivals, 30+ breweries and 50+ pubs and 100+ brews. For a student, I realized I do seem to spend an incredible amount of my money on good beer but hey, there's no free lunch. You want experience? you bloody pay for it. 

So without further ado and without talking too much about bank statements, let's begin with the one and only:

5. Russian River Brewing Company (Cali, USA) 

The Russian River Brewing Company's logo

There's no denying that ever since I got into craft beer in 2012, I wanted to be able to go to Russian River. They changed the story of IPA, put it back on the map and here I was, going back to where it all started. I feel extremely fortunate not only to have stepped into their original brewpub, but also to be with someone I looked up to my whole was pretty special. I don't know if it was the ambience, the beers or just the walk back to the hotel -I can't really point the finger at any particular aspect...the whole experience is now firmly etched on my head. Not to mention their tasting set was insane; all of their 18 regulars lined up one big platter. A couple of bathroom runs later, I was done.

Where's the bathroom?

4. Strong Ale Works (Qingdao, China)

Stong Ale Works tasting lineup wasn't as intense, thankfully. 

You would never place China as one of the places to visit for good beer. Qingdao's Strong Ale Works is challenging that narrative and making the breweries one of THE places to visit if you are ever, ever there. Strong line up, easy on the wallet and absolutely fantastic atmosphere of expats and locals mingling together and having a great evening. I had such a good time there, talking to random people with random tattoos in their faces. Honestly, I got to see a side of China I would have never expected to observe.

3.  Devil Craft (Tokyo, Japan)

They have Chicago style Japanese size. 

Devil Craft takes encroachment of personal space to a whole new level by squeezing in more chairs than what's possible but if you have lived in Japan long enough, you will learn to sit down shoulder to shoulder and mind your own business. Except that, in this pub, you don't. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you, no problemo. The place is lively as hell, no pun intended. I have always had a skeptical look on "award winning" brews, yet theirs seem to be genuinely awarded by good competitions because they had some of the best lineup of beers I have seen in Japan. Try out their Mojotropic Milkshake NE IPA first. Thank me later.

2. Beer Merchants Tap (London, UK)

Beer Merchants Tap in Hackney Wick, London

When my friend suggested that we go to part of town in London that has a great craft scene but was shaddy enough for people to get stabbed, I was in. I think I can talk a knife or two in exchange for really, really good beers. Looking back now, it was the correct choice because I had never seen a scene like this anywhere before. The craft breweries around Hackney Wick were edgy, loud and a completely drunk affair. People also loved drinking outside in the cold for some reason. There was, however, one civilized place you could sit down and have this amazing quadruple (very long name) barrel aged black Barley Wine which absolutely BLEW.MY.MIND. That's still an understatement. It's difficult to put in words what Omnipollo has done with their collaborative Omnipolloscope #2. Do check the beer out and of course, the place. 

1. Kyoto Beer Lab (Kyoto, Japan) 

Kyoto Beer Lab is Japan's Sour King

If you like sour, this is it. This is your ultimate destination in Japan. Try out thier Wasabi Salt Gose and then their Sucker Punch. Correct that, try every beer in their line of eight. Hands down the best bar in 1) ambience 2) in location 3) in beer lineup. If you are in Kyoto, you like craft beer and you DON'T go here, it's a shame. Really is. Trip to Osaka? Make sure to go there, it's close. 

There you go, in a decade that I discovered good beer, 2019 finished out strong. Happy beer year 2020. 


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