An A-Z of where in the world to drink and what; Fortify yourself with boudin noir, andouillettes and beer at Les Brasseurs, on the station square, then hunt the local bieres de garde Illustration by Frazer Hudson
In these holiday planning months, I have to decide whether I will fancy wine or beer. Warm, grapey, countries are fine for wine, but their beers are often no more than bland refreshers. Cooler countries grow grain and hops, and offer beery variety. In any of the following towns or cities, make sure you ask for more than just "a beer".

Amsterdam There is more to Dutch beer than the famous names. Mind you, Heineken has produced a strong, silky, dark wheat beer, called Tarwebok, and Grolsch Amber is a full-flavoured ale. The most interesting brews are at one of the world's great beer bars, in a former gin-tasting room: In De Wildeman, 5 Nieuwe Zijds Kolk, off the shopping street Nieuwendijk. (Opens at noon; closed Sundays. Hard to find, but worth it). Or drink rummy, abbey-style, beers brewed under a windmill (you can see it from Central Station), at 't IJ (Wed-Sun, 3pm-8pm).

Brussels Belgium has the world's most colourful, idiosyncratic, beers. Brussels' own style is the winey Gueuze-Lambic, with its fruit variations. Beginners try the sweeter versions at Cafe Mort Subite, which inspired a Bejart ballet, 7 Rue Montagne aux Herbes Potageres (opens at 4pm). O, near Grand' Place, at La Becasse, 11 Rue Tabora (open at lunch for smelly cheese and saveloy-like sausages). More serious, dry, versions at the Cantillon brewery and museum, 56 Rue Gheude, Anderlecht. For a meal cooked with beer, 't Spinnekopke, 1 Place Jardin aux Fleurs (closed Sat lunch and Sun).

Cologne It looks like a golden lager, but the local Kolschbier is technically closer to a pale bitter. Opposite the cathedral, at 12-14 Am Hof, PJ Fruh's Co1ner Hofbrau has its own brew. So, at either end of the Haymarket (Heumarkt), do the Paffgen and Malzmuhle taverns.

Denver The world's biggest selection of brews (1,400 last year) is at the Great American Beer Festival, 2-4 October. Information: 001 303 447 0816.

Edinburgh Look out for Burns Ale, from the local Caledonian brewery. Its beers have the finest aromatic maltiness of any in Britain. Edinburgh's parade of wonderful pubs has just been enriched by the art deco Frazer's Bar, 14 George St.

Funchal Madeira's famous sweet wine is blended with a dark-brown lager and chocolate. This cocktail is called a goat's foot. Hence the Pe-de- Cabra bar, on the road from Funchal to Camaro de Lobos.

Galway Murphy's stout at the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival, this year tentatively slated for the first weekend in September (Information: 00 353 91 796766). Or Guinness at the similar festival in Galway town on the weekend 26-28 September (00 353 91 527282).

Helsinki Sibelius used to get drunk in Kappeli ("The Chapel"), on the Esplanade; now, it makes its own beers. Look out also for the rye-and-juniper country brew Sahti, traditionally consumed after a sauna.

Indianapolis Where the Indy is not a newspaper but a car race. Soccer- loving Yorkshireman John Hill makes Big Boot Brown Ale at his Broad Ripple brewpub, 840 East 65th Street.

Jiuneau The state capital is a long way to go for Alaskan Smoked Porter, but I thought it worth the trip. A friend took me by helicopter for a picnic breakfast on an ice-flow. Bagels and lox; both the Alaskan salmon and the porter were alder-smoked.

Kandy This Buddhist holy city in Sri Lanka has locally made stout from the cask at UKD Silva's bar, Colombo Street.

Lille Fortify yourself with boudin noir, andouillettes and beer at Les Brasseurs, on the station square, then hunt the local bieres de garde, with their anise-like spicy maltiness.

Munich At the end of February, the pre-Lenten Salvator Doppelbock, a rich, strong, dark-brown lager, is tapped at the Paulaner brewery's beer- cellar at the Nockherberg. In late April, there will be the ruby-coloured Maibock at the Hofbrauhaus, on the Platzl. In summer, drink the stunning Blonder Bock at Forschungs Bauerei, 76 Unterhachinger Strasse, in the suburb of Perlach. Leave the Oktoberfest to the Antipodean backpackers.

New York New treats: Extra Special Bitter, brewed on the premises, at the Commonwealth pub, in the Rockefeller Center; Scottish-style ales on hand-pump at the Highlander, in an old Yiddish theatre in the Gramercy area, 190 3rd Ave at 17th and 18th; pale ale and "upscale" Thai food at Typhoon, 22 E 54th.

Oslo Tired of expensive, pure-but-samey lagers? Try the huge Imperial Stout at the tiny Oslo Mikro Bryggeri, 6 Bogstadveien.

Prague Fresh, soft, aromatic, original Pilsner at The Golden Tiger, U Zlateho Tygra, 17 Husova; look out for novelist Bohumil Hrabal in this literary tavern. Licorice-tinged dark lager, with rye bread and soft cheese, at U Fleku, 11 Kremencova, the famous, cavernous, beer hall.

Quebec city L'Inox, 37 Ste-andre St, is a nightclubby bar making its own, whiskyish, Bock beer called Trois de Pique (Three of Spades).

Riga The hazy, heady Lacplesa lager that I tasted on a collective farm in Latvia is hard to find in the increasingly westernised capital, but I was offered it in an earthenware mug at a cellar restaurant called Pie Kristapa, 25-29 Jauniela.

Seattle The hops of the nearby Yakima valley make for some of the world's most appetisingly bitter ales. Sample them at the Red Door, 3401 Fremont Ave N, run by a Lithuanian from Featherstone, Yorkshire.

Tokyo American-style hoppy ales, served with Chinese food (try the beef with green peppers and ginkgo nuts) at a cellar bar named after an Irish saint who established a brewing monastery in Switzerland: Sankt Gallen, 6-3-10 Roppongi, Minato-ku.

Ur A Mesopotamian brewing site 4,300 years ago. Of purely historical interest.

Vienna Pioneered amber-red lagers in 1841. Today's best example of this style is the Marzenbier at the Siebenstern brewpub, in the street of the same name.

Washington, DC Five hundred to 1,000 beers at The Brickskeller, an eccentric bar on the edge of Georgetown, 1523 22nd NW. It is hard to beat the local Hop Pocket Ale.

Xingu Town and river in Brazil, giving their name to an intense dark lager. There have been sightings of this brew in Britain.

York The Maltings, below Lendal Bridge, is one of my favourite real-ale pubs, with an ever-changing selection of ales. Look out for the Landlady (that's a new beer, of some hoppy acidity).

Zurich The local Hurlimann brewery produces the immensely strong (14 per cent) winter lager Samichlaus, but it is easier to find in Britain. Zurich's El International bar, 53 Zentral Strasse, is proud of a smooth, malty lager produced only when the fermentation can be accelerated by a full moon

Michael Jackson has been named Beer Writer of the Year. He has received the Gold Tankard, top award of the British Guild of Beer Writers for his work over the past year, including articles for the Independent and his World Beer Hunter CD-ROM (Discovery Channel)