Books Set in the World’s Best Beer Cities

Books Set in the World’s Best Beer Cities


From Bud-soaked football Sundays to the 16 glorious days of Oktoberfest, there’s no question: Fall is for beer lovers. Oktoberfest, the traditional Bavarian beer festival, officially kicks off this weekend in Munich. If you didn’t get it together to get there this year (no dirndl?), don’t sweat it. There are plenty of other spots around the globe to get your swill on. Plan your weekend—or your next vacation—around one of these great breweries, and be sure to bring one of these atmospheric reads with you when you go.

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    1. Dubliners


    Where to drink: Since the Guinness Storehouse reopened to the public in 2000, millions of tourists have visited to sample Ireland’s beloved stout. After embarking on the user-friendly, self-guided tour through the factory, climb the stairs to the Gravity Bar on the building’s top floor, which features 360 degrees of floor-to-ceiling windows and spectacular views of the Dublin skyline.

    What to read: James Joyce is one of Ireland’s most celebrated literary sons. His classic short story collection Dubliners, which paints a portrait of Irish middle-class life before the Irish revolution, is a must-read. For a more modern view into Irish city life, there’s also Roddy Doyle’s raucous The Commitments, about a group of teens in the ’80s who form a soul band. And if you’re into memoirs, try out Country Girl, by another Irish legend, Edna O’Brien.

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    2. Fortress of Solitude

    Brooklyn, N.Y.

    Where to drink: Up in the hipster havens of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, N.Y.C., Brooklyn Lager—crafted at nearby Brooklyn Brewery—is the beverage of choice. To see how the sauce gets made, check out the brewery, which hosts a happy hour on Fridays and offers tours and tastings on the weekends.

    What to read: Jonathan Lethem is a Brooklyn boy, born and raised. He weaves references Brooklynites will recognize throughout The Fortress of Solitude, his novel about a boy growing up in rough-and-tumble downtown Brooklyn in the 1970s. For those who haven’t read it, Betty Smith’s classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, set in the north Brooklyn tenements at the turn of the last century, is also a must. And if you’re into nonfiction, pick up legendary New York journalist Pete Hammell’s memoir, A Drinking Life, which touches on life in the borough in the ’40s and ’50s.

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    3. 1Q84

    Sapporo, Japan

    Where to drink: So you’ve scraped together enough change for a vacation in Japan—go, you! Take in the sites and then visit the Yebisu Beer Brewery, home of one of Japan’s oldest brews. Yebisu offers tours and tastings, as does Sapporo, its sister brewery in northern Japan. Getting there’s a little trickier: You’ll need to board a plane (or a train, if you’re traveling on the cheap). Once you get there, visit the Sapporo Beer Museum, which features exhibits and a vast biergarten.

    What to read: Two words: Haruki Murakami. When asked for ideas for this list, almost across the board, the Bookish editors suggested books by the surrealist storyteller, among them 1Q84 (courtesy of our fiction editor, Nathan) and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (from our YA gal, Natalie).

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    4. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

    San Francisco

    Where to drink: It’s no secret that the soils of northern California make for great grapes: The vineyards of Napa Valley attract thousands of visitors every year. But, beer lovers should take heart, because San Francisco boasts a fine brewery, too. Make a reservation for a tour at the Anchor Brewing Company, open on weekends.

    What to read: After his parents’ sudden deaths, Dave Eggers dropped out of college to care for his eight-year-old brother, Toph. They drove to San Francisco, built a new life and, in the end, thrived—though the experience wasn’t without heartache. His beautiful memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius tells their story while painting a vivid picture of ’90s-era San Francisco.

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    5. Austerlitz

    Leuven, Belgium

    Where to drink: Located just a short drive from Brussels in Leuven, Belgium, the Stella Artois brewery—one of the world’s oldest—is open to visitors every weekend. Take the 90-minute tour and learn about the famed lager’s brewing process, then reward yourself with a pint at the end.

    What to read: For those heading to Antwerp, bring German novelist W.G. Sebald’s final book, Austerlitz, with you. The novel begins with chance meeting at the Antwerp train station between the unnamed narrator and an architectural historian, whose life story gradually unfolds over the course of the book. Continuing on? Check out The Folding Star, by Alan Hollinghurst, which takes place in nearby Flanders. Star tells the tale of a disillusioned English tutor who moves to Belgium and begins a series of illicit affairs.

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    6. The Twenty-Seventh City

    St. Louis

    Where to drink: If a pilgrimage to the home of the King of Beers isn’t high on your list, it should be. There’s a ton to do at Budweiser’s flagship brewery in St. Louis, from tastings to tours—plus, courses at the Budweiser Beer School, where you can learn about beer-food pairings, pouring techniques and more.

    What to read: Jonathan Franzen’s debut novel, The Twenty-Seventh City centers around Bombay transplant S. Jammu, who’s moved from India to St. Louis and become the city’s new police chief. It’s the book that put a young Franzen on the literary radar—and look what he’s done since then.

    This article was updated September 25, 2014


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