Heineken has long reigned as king of beers in its home city of Amsterdam—a place where cocktails and wine tend to take a back seat to light, crisp, aromatic lagers. But if you’re visiting the Dutch capital for the first time, watching a bartender pour you a Heineken can be disorienting.
Not only is the glass likely to be much smaller than the pint-sized one you’re used to in “the States,” but the bartender lops off your beer’s overflowing foam head using a small metal knife.
Apart from looking cool, this is done for the sake of neatness, says Matt Simpson, a.k.a., the beer sommelier. “It’s so there won’t be foam running down the glass and onto your hands and tabletop,” he says.
Even after your beer’s partial decapitation, your (already small) glass will still include a good two fingers of foam. No, the bartender isn’t hazing you because you’re a tourist. This is how the locals enjoy their lager. The head is thought to protect the beer from oxygen, which can knock down its subtle aromas. This is also why the glass is so small. A larger glass would lose its protective helmet of foam before you could finish drinking it.
Go to Amsterdam today, and you’ll also notice locals drinking a just-released version of Heineken not yet available in the U.S. (but coming to a few select cities this fall). Called H41, it includes a recently discovered strain of wild yeast that produces a fuller-bodied, slightly spicy version of classic Heineken. While the craft scene is smaller than in the U.S., you’ll also see plenty of Amsterdammers drinking Dutch craft beers like Oedipus and Jopen.
Not heading to mainland Europe any time soon? Here’s how to drink like a local in seven cities closer to home.
ORDER A ‘LEINIE’ IN MILWAUKEE
If you’ve lived in the Midwest, you’re probably familiar with Leinenkugel’s—the pride of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. While you can find the brewery’s Summer Shandy in all 50 states, Wisconsinites are as likely to order the breweries Sunset Wheat or Red Pale Ale. Whichever of Leinenkugel’s beers you order in Milwaukee, call it a “Leinie,” pronounced lie-knee. The nickname is so popular that the company’s website is Leinie.com. “Everyone I know in Wisconsin asks for a Leinie,” Simpson says. “It’s been this way for decades.”
GET A 'LAGER’ IN PHILLY
Pottsville, Pennsylvania-based Yuengling is the oldest operating brewery in the United States, and its namesake beer is one you’ll find on tap in almost every good dive bar and neighborhood tavern in Philadelphia. But depending on the type of joint you visit, asking for a “Yuengling” may draw some funny looks. Especially in South Philly, locals say “gimme a lager” without feeling the need to elaborate. If hoppier bitter beers are your thing, Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale and Victory Prima Pils are two craft beers locals drink by the caseload.
ASK FOR 'SWEETWATER’ IN ATLANTA
While draconian brew-pub regulations have the South trailing much of the U.S. when it comes to craft beer brewing, SweetWater Brewing Company is the craft outfit of choice throughout much of the Peach State. If you want their most-popular beer—the 420 Extra Pale Ale, just ask for “a SweetWater.” While the brewery makes “like 10 different beers,” anyone you hear ordering a SweetWater is going to get the 420 EPA, Simpson says.
ENJOY A 'SAM’ IN BEAN TOWN
Sam Adams has long been the nation’s largest craft brewery (although some argue it doesn’t meet the definition). If you’re in Boston, order the city’s namesake lager by asked for “a Sam,” says certified cicerone Zachary Mack, a Boston native and owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. “It’s not a ‘Boston lager’ or a ‘Sam Adams,’ ” he explains. “It’s just a Sam.” If Sam’s not your thing, Harpoon IPA is another local favorite. Just be sure to pronounce it “Hah-poon” in your best Southie accent, Mack says.
DRINK LA CUMBRE IN THE ABQ
While those outside the Southwest don’t think of New Mexico as a prime destination for beer, the state is slowly turning heads with its many award-winning craft brews. So what are they drinking in Albuquerque? Ask for any of La Cumbre Brewing Company’s highly rated and locally brewed beers, and you’ll fit right in. Start with its Elevated IPA or Project Dank. Marble Brewery is another local favorite.
GO FOR A 'GANSETT’ IN PROVIDENCE
Narragansett was once the most popular beer in New England. After a protracted slump—at least among younger drinkers—the one-time favorite is making a big comeback from Martha’s Vineyard to Manchester. “Order a ‘Gansette,’ ” Mack says. It’s not a beer that will win many awards. Instead, think of it as the PBR of the Northeast.
SIERRA NEVADA (STILL) RULES NOCAL
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the Levi’s Jeans of the craft beer world. It has been around forever and its distribution and sales are anything but niche. But even as the company has expanded to reach every bar and corner store in America, it has somehow held onto its street cred even among hardcore craft fans. You have no shortage of great craft breweries in Northern California—including Russian River Brewing and Almanac Beer Co. But you’ll always fit in ordering a Sierra Nevada. (If you something besides the brewery’s pale ale, you’ll have to be more specific.)