Where to sink the ultimate pint

Thousands of beer lovers will flock to Munich's huge Oktoberfest this weekend to down steins of premium lager and consume vast quantities of bratwurst

But while the Oktoberfest is the undisputed king of beer festivals, it's not the only must-do for those who prefer grain to grape.

We've scoured the globe for the best places to sink a pint, from the Cotswolds to Brazil, and bring you the ultimate destinations for beer lovers. Hit California's hip microbreweries, down a pint of the black stuff in Dublin or tour a brewery in Prague � just make sure you can find your hotel afterwards�

Best for beer: where to sink the ultimate pint - Munich

Munich's Oktoberfest is still the daddy when it comes to beer worship. The famous festival (16 September to 3 October 2006) offers 14 beer tents with around two weeks to explore them all.

There's entertainment (including yodelling), stacks of German food and steins of beer handed around like there's no tomorrow. You might wish there wasn't when you wake the next morning with a thumping head.

But for a few days of sheer partying and paying homage to beer drinking, the Oktoberfest can't be beaten.

And, if you make an effort to get out of the beer tents, Munich itself is an attractive city with green spaces, interesting architecture and easy access to the Alps.

Getting there: Fly from Heathrow to Munich from �55 one way including taxes.

Best for beer: where to sink the ultimate pint - The Cotswolds

Along with the beautiful olde worlde villages and gorgeous countryside, the Cotswolds has another bonus up its sleeve - fab real ale.

The Hook Norton Brewery, in the village of the same name, was set up over 150 years ago and is still family-run. Its brews are exported around the country and you can still see shire horses pulling deliveries round the local pubs.

Old Hooky is a popular brew but look out for specials such as the malty Christmas ale Twelve Days. Go on a two-hour brewery tour, which includes a tasting, or settle back in one of the nearby pubs. The 18th century Pear Tree Inn has bread baked with local bitter on the menu - and it hosts a July beer festival.

Getting there: Drive there from London in around two hours or from Manchester in just under three hours.

Best for beer: where to sink the ultimate pint - Bruges

Belgium has so many beer styles that even the most ardent non-beer drinker can be tempted to try a tipple.

Check out the Trappist beers (made only in an abbey under the guidance of the monks), the city's famous lambic beer ('spontaneously fermented') and a variety of fruit brews.

With its cobbled streets and picturesque canals, Bruges is an enchanting place to spend the weekend. Make sure you dine at Den Dyver, where dishes are carefully teamed with beer. Then take your pick from the bars - 'T Brugs Beertje has a fine selection of beers with matching glasses.

Getting there: Go by Eurostar from London to Bruges (via Brussels) in just over 3 hours 30 minutes.

Best for beer: where to sink the ultimate pint - California

The West Coast craze for producing fabulous boutique beers shows no signs of abating, and California's microbreweries are highly regarded.

The Mendocino Brewing Company in Hopland opened in 1983 and was the first brew-pub in California. It's renowned for its Red Tail Ale, and you can indulge in the old-style saloon bar or dart room.

There are hundreds of brewpubs to choose from elsewhere in the state - San Francisco is a good place to start, with a wide range of own-made beers for you to quaff. The 21st Amendment brews beers such as Amendment Pale Ale and General Pippo's Porter. The San Francisco Brewing Company is the city's first - try its most popular tipple, the fragrant, hoppy Albatross Lager.

Getting there: Flights from London Heathrow to San Francisco start from �328.20 return including taxes.

Best for beer: where to sink the ultimate pint - Fremantle

There's more to Australian beer than Tooheys and VB, and the country's microbreweries are producing excellent, award-winning beers.

Fremantle, just south of Perth in Western Australia, is a hotspot for such places.

The Sail and Anchor's top brews include Brass Monkey Stout and Amber Lager. Its Brewer's Courtyard lets you view how the beer is made and shows you how to match food to ale.

Little Creatures is another boutique brewer, famed for its pale ale. The cavernous bar, inside a converted boat shed right on the harbour, is a lively place for a bevvy. Don't miss the Fremantle Beer Festival � keep your eyes peeled for the 2007 dates � which features a range of international and Aussie beers.

Getting there: Fly to Perth and then take a short train journey to Fremantle. Heathrow to Perth costs from �630 return including taxes.

Best for beer: where to sink the ultimate pint - Dublin

Sample Ireland's most famous liquid export in the city that has long been associated with the 'black stuff'.

Arthur Guinness started brewing his eponymous drink from his Dublin factory in the late 1700s - find out more about its long history at the Guinness Storehouse. After the tour, sip your Guinness in the Gravity Bar with its amazing views across Dublin.

There are too many quality pubs to mention, but The Long Hall is a classic Irish drinking den. Connoisseurs should head to the Porterhouse, Temple Bar, to sample this microbrewery's amazing range of beers, from its pilsner Temple Brau to a stout brewed with fresh oysters.

Getting there: Ryanair flies from Luton, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bournemouth, East Midlands, Glasgow, Stansted and Blackpool to Dublin from 99p exc taxes. Alternatively, get the ferry over and drive from there.

Best for beer: where to sink the ultimate pint - Rio de Janeiro

Brazil isn't famed for its beer culture but things are changing. In recent years, Brazil's beer brands have become the pinnacle of cool in UK bars, Brahma being a particular favourite.

Real ale lovers may tut at the mention of light Brazilian pilsners but there's nothing like a drop of the ice cold stuff (and they do serve it ice cold!) on a sultry afternoon. Apart from the mass-produced lagers, there are also more unusual beers on the market.

Rio's Devassa (Brazilian slang for 'party girl') is a cool microbrewery hangout, and its beer has become one of the trendiest drinks around � it's now appearing in the UK. Although an unusual taste to European beer drinkers, there's also a dark sweet beer called Malzbier, which, like Marmite, seems to really divide opinion.

Getting there: Flights from Heathrow to Rio costs from �722 return including taxes.

Best for beer: where to sink the ultimate pint - Vienna

Vienna might be a relatively small city, but it boasts a fantastic beer brewing heritage.

Brewery restaurant Fischerbr�u is over in the 19th district, but it's worth the trek for the range of beers and hearty food. Closer to the centre is Siebensternbr�u, which has hemp and chilli beers amongst its range of award-winning brews - just the thing to wash down your wiener schnitzel. Ottakringer is another well-regarded local brewery.

If you can drag yourself away from the pubs long enough, Vienna's a lovely city for a stroll, particularly when it's lit up for the Christmas markets. Don't miss the impressive palaces, such as the Hofburg and Sch�nbrunn.

Getting there: Flights from Heathrow to Vienna costs from �59 one way including taxes.

Best for beer: where to sink the ultimate pint - Cincinnati

North America's largest Oktoberfest (the country has several) takes place in Cincinnati, Ohio, and celebrates the city's German heritage.

Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati has German music, plenty of speciality dishes such as bratwurst, jumbo pretzels and Bavarian cream puffs, and (unsurprisingly) lots of beer. Curiously, it also holds the Guinness World Record for the world's largest chicken dance (a classic German heritage song, apparently). Lake Worth Oktoberfest in Florida is another lively event.

Getting there: Fly with BA or American Airlines from Heathrow to Cincinnati (via Chicago) from �485.50 including taxes.

Best for beer: where to sink the ultimate pint - Prague

International beer drinkers are no strangers to the joys of Czech beers, most famously Budvar, Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen. Where better to enjoy them than the country's capital, Prague?

When you're done admiring the city's Gothic architecture and strolling along the Vltava river, retire to the cellar bar Kozicka or the ever popular Golden Tiger pub.

Tour a brewery or two � the Velke Popovice brewery, near Prague, dates from the 15th century and you can sample the wares in the U Velkopopovickeho Kozla restaurant. Further afield is the Chodovar brewery, which hosts a beer spa where you can not only drink fine ale but bathe in it too.

Getting there: Fly from Heathrow/Gatwick to Prague from �40 one way including taxes.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.