best bar none
A great way to get to know a place and its people is having a local show you the best bars. Recently we asked Intrepid Express readers to tell us their favourite place for a beer, so our thirsty travellers have done the leg work for you and now all you need do is sit back and enjoy a cold ale or two…
Spain: “One of the most vibrant and interesting bars I have been to was one we stumbled upon in Granada, Spain: Bodegas de Castenada. Stood at the bar, often four deep, we thought it was going to take a while to get served. And then from behind us orders were being shouted over our heads. We realised the only way to get served was to lose our English reserve and do as the locals do, by shouting our order at the bar man: dos calicasas por favour!
We’re served with a potent drink, a mix of liquids poured from various large wooden barrels, finished off with the tiniest squirt of soda. We muscle our way to the bar and are presented with a free plate of tapas: fantastic ham served on small slices of bread. Now practised in ordering, we shout to the bar man serving our patch for our next round of drinks, and are presented with a second, different plate of tapas. The bar is a feast for the senses. Drinks and tapas dishes are passed over our heads; orders are shouted from waiters to bar men to kitchen staff; vast joints of hams hang above our heads; and the air is a mix of cigarette smoke, the buzz of Spanish conversation and the sizzling of tapas. This had to be the true Spain.” Clare Allen.
Vietnam: “One of my favourite bars I have visited was the aptly named ‘Beer Hoi’ bar in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Tiny plastic seats and tables with huge jugs of the local beer for next to nothing. This was the bar of choice for starting the evening for myself and other travelers I met whilst there. The owner was always happy and smiling (probably due to the amount we drank at his bar) and the young boy from the sandwich vendor up the street would come and play football with us outside. This was a great, fun, cheap bar and certainly helped us warm up the night before moving on to the likes of Sail Club etc.” Dan Norton
Indonesia: “My favourite bar is on Gili Trawangan, an island just off Lombok in Indonesia. It is one of three in an island group called the Gilis.
The bar is called Rudy’s, and it is set on the beach side road. It is a tropical paradise – crystal clear turquoise waters, white sand, best coral reefs in the world, and best of all, the view includes not just tropical waters, but the lush mountains of Lombok. The island is beautiful, fun, happy, the locals are amazing and friendly.
Rudy’s is my favourite bar, because of the location, and because of the bartenders. I made great friends with them when I was there last, and they are happy to chat about anything, and party. 2 days a week they host a ripping party. I spent every night there, with the coldest Bintang beer, and great food. During the day we would sit in their beach side huts, drink beer, eat, swim, and relax. If they didnt have something on the menu, they would find it for us. And they quickly learned my favourite order. By the time I left, I had to buy one of their Rudy’s tshirts. I miss them.” Amelia Bruce
Germany: “Munich…. (my) Beer CAPITAL of the WORLD is home to Oktoberfest and obviously rings in a roaring crowd during this time, but it doesn’t stop there. On a quiet Monday night, at a meagre -6 degrees in December of 2009, I learned to both drink and LOVE beer.
For a weeknight, the Hofbräuhaus in München packed itself to the brim, with locals, tourists, an Oompah band and some mighty fine lederhosen and dirndls. Being a new tourist, I had scoured the city before arriving at the beer hall with dirndl in hand and before long, my table was eating up a storm, clinking beers and singing German songs with the best of them – one of our mates even made a mid-dinner dash to buy lederhosen just to get in on the action!
From barmaids carrying multiple stein’s to challenge even the most discerning weight lifter to dancing on tables and having jagermeister rounds, the Hofbräuhaus is by far the BEST place for a beer!” Julie Atterton.
Thailand: “My all time favourite bar experience is in Khao San Rd, Bangkok. There’s nothing like those makeshift road-side cocktail bars that are set up all along the street. Enthusiastic vendors shout and wave signs with the cheapest prices for drinks (let alone cocktails) you will find anywhere! Once you show a sign of interest they immediately pull a few plastic chairs from nowhere and find a space for you in an already packed little drinking hole.
Every cocktail under the sun is listed and at 60 baht a pop you can spend a few hours trying as many as you can stomach (they are also the strongest you’ll find anywhere). It’s a great way to have a few drinks on the cheap, enjoy the heat of Bangkok, meet people and watch the thriving street life. Brilliant.” Sarah Bedford
United States: “Defiant Brewery in Pearl River, NY, brings you closer to the birth of beer than any other bar around, bar none (pardon the pun!). Creative concoctions are brewed right inside the bar and you can just feel the liquid joy that is being poured into and out of the big metal vats lining the length of the bar. The choices are listed clearly as well as the flavors that are associated with each brew. Lest you float away, the brewery is now serving some food, when I was there, it was the most delicious wings I ever had-spicy and memorable, and I don’t even like wings! It is not a fancy place, it is a real experience and thus is my favorite that I would like people to know about. You will definitely feel a lot closer to your beer!” Barbara Noyes
Belgium: “Imagine the world’s best beer in the world’s best bar. In der Vrede, West Vleteren, Belgium. The beer is brewed by Trappist Monks and is only sold on-site in the bar. Supply is exhausted there, so none is left over for commercial sale. There are three beers – light, medium and dark, which range up to 12% alcohol! The popularity of this beer (despite the location miles from anywhere and no public transport) has led to the building of a great new bar, but the simplicity is maintained and the only food served is bread and cheese. It’s all about the beer!” Graham Elliott
* photo by Blair Diversi – Intrepid Photography Competition