Jules Verne, the Father of Science Fiction, was born and came of age in Nantes, not far from that exemplary centre of wine, France’s Loire Valley. Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre, Saumur, Vouvray – Verne had access to it all.
And yet the novelist, one Google Images search in, looks like a beer man to us. It could be that beard, the twinkle in his eye, his maternal lineage (Scottish) or, more likely, the fantastic breadth of his imagination. Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea… call us crazy, but titles like that don’t spring from the imagination of a dude who spends his time in vineyards. They spring from the imagination of a bloke who likes to savour craft beer with his mates.
And so in that intrepid spirit we pay homage to Jules Verne and book a RTW fare to discover 80 of the most innovative, important and under-the-radar craft beers in the world.
1. Bierbrier (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
When your last name is Bierbrier (‘beer brewer’ in German) and your great-grandfather was a wholesale liquor magnate, you may want to reconsider a career in finance. That’s exactly what Charles Bierbrier did in 2005, with the launch of his eponymous label. Despite the feverish Montreal market, success came fast, thanks to influential ambassadors like Dave McMillan and Fred Morin of the restaurant Joe Beef (fans of Anthony Bourdain will know the place).
2. Driftwood Brewery (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)
The rest of Canada calls retiree-rife Victoria ‘God’s Waiting Room’, but that’s just jealousy. After all, it rarely dips below 0°C or snows in B.C.’s cosy capital and, even if it did, you’d be blessed with some terrific beer to warm your cockles. Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA was crowned national beer of the year in 2011. The brewery has expanded by leaps and bounds since and celebrated this year with a major revamp of its Victoria facility.
3. Dogfish Head Brewery (Milton, Delaware, USA)
Dogfish Head, like the state of Delaware, had a low profile until the doco Beer Wars and Discovery Channel reality show Brew Masters put the brand, and founder Sam Calagione, on the map. Bars and restaurants in Brooklyn suddenly had to have Dogfish Head brews like Burton Baton, Urkontinent and My Antonia in the cooler, or risk the wrath of unruly hipsters.
4. Gigantic Brewing Company (Portland, Oregon, USA)
A discourse on the craft beer scene in America that omits Portland, or Oregon for that matter, is, well, stupid. They call Portland ‘Beervana’ for a reason, and the city just so happens to host the craft beer festival of record in the country. Which brings us to Gigantic. The small artisanal brewery took home a platinum medal at the 2013 Mondial de la Bière Festival in Montreal, sells killer merch and has two founders, Ben Love and Van Havig, who look like Ben & Jerry some three decades ago. Bonus style points.
5. Long Trail Brewing Company (Bridgewater Corners, Vermont, USA)
Ben & Jerry’s is a handy segue since Long Trail, like the gourmet ice cream brand, is from Vermont. The number one craft producer by sales in a state flush with phenomenal beers is strong in English-style ales, but also makes a smooth altbier. The eco-conscious company, in business since 1989, has a trove of awards for environmental excellence, workplace safety and, importantly, beer.