Renowned for producing Ireland's most famous export (Guinness), drinking beer is a way of life in Dublin. Despite the high prices, you'll find pubs and traditional alehouses full of happy patrons.
Where to Drink: No beer pilgrimage would be complete without the Guinness Storehouse tour (www.guinness-storehouse.com), which ends with the requisite free pint in the Gravity Bar. Perhaps the most celebrated beer institution is the Porterhouse (www.porterhousebrewco.com) and its nine exclusive beers. Throughout Dublin, local brews are served at hundreds of authentic pubs, including Dawson's Lounge, the traditional Stag's Head (www.thestagshead.ie), and the cool Solas (www.solasbars.com), which has a summer beer garden.
Average pint of lager: €4.50. Check out www.dublinpubscene.com for more drinking venues.
More than 125 million gallons of beer are consumed annually in Munich, home of Oktoberfest and the Hofbräuhaus beer hall (www.hofbraeuhaus.de).
Where to Drink: Indulge in a classic Munich Helles pale lager from one of the city's six main breweries. Save time for the 11th-century Weihenstephan (www.weihenstephaner.de), the world's oldest brewery. Munich also has several traditional beer gardens that are ideal drinking spots in the summer -- try Seehaus (www.kuffler-gastronomie.de) for its view of the lake and the white swans in the English Garden. The Chinese Tower Beer Garden, also in the English Garden, features live bands playing traditional Bavarian music.
Average price for a half liter: €3
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The ancestral home of globally-recognized beers like Amstel, Heineken, and Grolsh, Amsterdam serves up dozens of styles, flavors, and labels.
Where to Drink: The Cracked Kettle (www.crackedkettle.com) is the place to buy your beer -- the shop stocks more than 500 types of beer and can ship internationally. If you want a place to sit down, try Café Gollem (www.cafegollem.nl) just across the road, serving nearly 200 beers; Cafe t'Arendsnest (www.arendsnest.nl), which has 100 varieties of purely Dutch beers from 50 breweries (of the 100 types, 30 are on tap); and IJ Brewery (www.brouwerijhetij.nl), which has its very own windmill and a tour that lets you sample 10 organic beer varieties made on-site.
Average price for a pint: €3
Prague, Czech Republic
They certainly love their beer in Prague. Arguably the largest consumers of beers in world (more than 41 gallons per person per year), the Czechs are believed to have invented pilsner. The city also happens to be among the cheapest places in Europe for drinking amber ale.
Where to Drink: Choose from dozens of historic beer halls or swanky bars. Try the 15th-century U Fleku (www.en.ufleku.cz), Bredovsky Dvur (www.bredovskydvur.unas.cz) and U Vejvodu (www.restauraceuvejvodu.cz).
Average price for a half liter: 26 Czech koruna (about $1.25)
Can't think of an Austrian beer? Well, that's probably because the best beers in Vienna come from boutique microbreweries, so you won't find them outside Europe. Microbreweries are especially popular, but conglomerate brewer groups like Bräu-Union (www.brauunion.at) also dominate the local market with brands like Gösser, Zipfer, Schwechate, Wieselburger, and Puntigamer.
Where to Drink: In Vienna, visit 1516 (www.1516brewingcompany.com) for homebrewed beers; 7 Sterne Bräu (www.7stern.at) for seasonal Viennese non-filtered varieties; the 17th-century Gösser Bierklinik (www.goesser-bierklinik.at) for Bräu Union beers and Bermuda Bräu (www.bermuda-braeu.at) for a range of traditional local draughts.
Average price for a pint: €4
Tokyo may not be cheap, but the beer is certainly easy to find: you can even buy cans from vending machines on the street (no ID is required). Although many pubs here try to cater to Western tastes and offer imported beers, most serve local varieties on tap. There is also a relatively new and vibrant Japanese craft beer scene (ji-biiru).
Where to Drink: Try Popeye (www.40beersontap.com) for its selection of 70 beers on tap that includes many hard-to-find local craft brews; Craftheads (www.craftheads.jp) for its draft and bottled beer; Ushi-Tora in Shimo-Kitazawa, which specializes in draft microbrews, Japanese beers, and a few international brews; and the Kura-Kura Bar (www.gnavi.co.jp) in Kanda, which offers 12 craft brews on tap.
Average price for a pint of craft beer: ¥1,200; pick up Asahi, Kirin, or Sapporo at vending machines for around ¥250.
The West Coast beer haven of Portland has more breweries per person than any other city in the U.S.: more than 30 at last count. Hops and barley are grown locally, so you know that your microbrew will be fresh and natural.
Where to Drink: Try drinking at home-grown breweries and taverns like Widmer Gasthaus (www.widmer.com), the New Old Lompoc (www.newoldlompoc.com), and Bridgeport (www.bridgeportbrew.com). If you want to drink more, arrange a ride through Portland's Brew Bus Tour (www.brewbus.com), which visits 20 city establishments. The Oregon Brewers Festival (www.oregonbrewfest.com) is held each July and features more than 80 craft beers.
Average price for a beer: $3.30
...to be continued with PART 2!