Oktoberfest has begun, and over the next two weeks, the festival will beckon millions of folks to Munich with beer, oompa beats and silly antics.
But for hops afficionados, there's more to Germany than Oktoberfest. This autumn, consider these alternative destinations to quench your thirst for good brew:
Bamberg (and Upper Franconia)
Arguably the heartland of German beer, Franconia teems with hundreds of small, traditional breweries that produce about a thousand different kinds of ales. Take the handsome medieval town of Bamberg as your base and go on one of these many hikes, all designed to have you taste all kinds of beer along the way. For instance, Fünf Seidla Steig, one of the most popular routes, is a nine-mile hike that passes five breweries on two mountains.
Nothing drives a thriving beer culture like a healthy rivalry. These two neighboring cities on the Rhine boast two distinct brews--light Kölsch in Cologne and heartier Altbier in Düsseldorf--and plenty of chants and songs in each city make fun of the other town's beer. Düsseldorf's compact city center, which calls itself the "World's Longest Bar" with 260 pubs crammed into one square kilometer, is an ideal place for a night out sampling brews. Just don't order any Kölsch there.
At Stuttgart's Folk Festival (Sept. 28-Oct. 14), seven gigantic tents serve beer Oktoberfest-style. And if you feel like switching things up, you can also visit tents dedicated to wine. Just remember: Wine before beer, never fear...
This demure Northwestern city gave the world one of the best-known beer brands: Beck's. You can go on a two-hour tour of the brewery, including a tasting session, natch.
The port city once boasted 400 breweries, most of which have disappeared. This weekend, the first Craft Brew Festival, organized by the city's proudly local Ratsherrn Brewery aims to revive the brew culture in this handsome Hanseatic city.
-- Chaney Kwak, Condé Nast Traveler
This story originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveler: Oktoberfest Alternatives: German Beer Destinations Beyond Munich