Best beer cities

The United States is the epicenter of a rebirth of beer. The craft beer movement reclaimed beer and has given us more choices than we can try in a lifetime. You probably have your local favorites, but there are 10 cities that rise above the rest as craft beer hotspots.

There are many ways to rank beer. Most craft beer lists go by volume of beer made per capita. This metric gives a great idea about how much craft beer is made, but it doesn’t take quality into account. The Pudding created a craft brew city ranking based on a mix of quality and quantity. Here are their choices for the best craft beer cities.

10. Salt Lake City, Utah

Utah’s famously restrictive liquor laws have slowed the growth of the craft beer scene in the state. Salt Lake City stands out from the rest of the state however and produces high quality brews. There are a few quirks about beer in Utah. You are required by state law to order food with any high alcohol beer, which is anything that is 4% or more alcohol by volume (ABV). You’ll also notice “tap-less tap rooms,” an invention that is again, driven by Utah state laws. Beers on tap cannot be more than 4% ABV so many tap rooms serve up beer from the bottle. The quirks in Salt Lake City coupled with a growing brewing scene make it a fun beer city to visit.

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The Pudding’s top 5:

Epic Brewing Company, Uinta Brewing Company, Squatters Craft Beers, Red Rock Brewing, Shades of Pale Brewing Company

Yelp’s top 5:

Epic Brewing Company, Beerhive Pub, Fisher Brewing, Uinta Brewing Company, Proper Brewing

9. St. Louis, Missouri

With cheap water provided by the Mississippi River and a history of beer brewing thanks to Budweiser, St. Louis has long been poised to brew great beer. Anheuser-Busch’s (AB) hold on the city was hard to break however. Schlafly Brewery was the first brewery to exist in the same city as AB, a move that, in 1991, seemed crazy. Schlafly paved the way for other breweries, but it was AB’s buyout to InBev in 2008 that pushed the St. Louis market to demand craft beers. There has been an explosion of craft breweries in the St. Louis area in the past decade, and beer history runs deep in the city, providing an interesting mix of beer lovers and innovation.

The Pudding’s Top 5:

Side Project Brewing, Perennial Artisan Ales, 2nd Shift Brewing, 4 Hands Brewing Company, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company

Yelp’s Top 5:

The Modern Brewery, The Civil Life Brewing Company, 4 Hands Brewing, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, Earthbound Beer

8. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor is a college town with a progressive lean and inventive vibe. The city has a history of beer production, before prohibition it was a German immigration town with a few commercial breweries. In the 90s, craft breweries began popping up, but they struggled to stay in business. Today, Ann Arbor fully embraces craft beer and the inventive college spirit there allows for daring creations such as fully organic beers and a wide range of sour beers.

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The Pudding’s top 5:

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Bitter Old Fecker Rustic Ales, Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewing, Wolverine State Brewing Company, Original Gravity Brewing Company

Yelp’s top 5:

Homes Brewery, Glasshouse Brewing, Wolverine State Brewing Company, Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery, Grizzly Peak Brewing Company

7. Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is the major Midwestern city with the largest Midwestern population, several major sports teams, a rich history and of course, plenty of beer. Chicago’s craft beer scene flourished relatively early with embrace of Goose Island Brewing in 1988. Goose Island has since sold out to beverage giant InBev, but the craft beer scene chugs along with a steadily growing list of local brews. The beer is good, but what truly makes Chicago’s beer scene unique is the food. Chicago is the culinary center of the Midwest with restaurants to rival New York and Los Angeles. Many pubs continue the foodie scene by focusing on beer that pairs well with good food. It’s a great combination for a unique beer city.

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The Pudding’s top 5:

Pipeworks Brewing Company, Half Acre Beer Company,  Spiteful Brewing, Revolution Brewing Company, Haymarket Pub & Brewery

Yelp’s top 5:

On Tour Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Forbidden Root, Revolution Brewing, Begyle Brewing

6. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tight liquor laws hampered the growth of the craft beer business in Minneapolis, but the number of breweries exploded in the past few years. Most taprooms cater to a Midwestern sensibility with cozy decorations and classic beer variety offerings. Minneapolis is still finding its footing in the craft beer scene, but a strong economy and growing demand created an environment ripe for new brews. This city is definitely one to keep an eye on.

The Pudding’s top 5:

Surly Brewing Company, Steel Toe Brewing Company, Dangerous Man Brewing Company, Fair State Brewing Cooperative, Indeed Brewing Company

Yelp’s top 5:

Dangerous Man Brewing Company, Insight Brewing, Fulton Brewery, Sisyphus Brewing, Indeed Brewing Company

5. Portland, Oregon

Portland is an obvious choice for craft beer. This inventive city loves new and unique things, and beer is no exception. Portlander’s demand for craft beer is impressive. According to the Oregon Brewer’s Guild, almost 40% of beer consumed in Portland is craft beer, and over 20% of the beer consumed in Oregon was made in Oregon. There are growler fill-stations in grocery stores and as stand-alone stations, and more beer tours and crawls than you could hope to do in a weekend. Portland is a mecca for beer.

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The Pudding’s top 5:

Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, Great Notion Brewing, Upright Brewing, Gigantic Brewing Company, Breakside Brewery

Yelp’s top 5:

The Commons Brewery, Cascade Brewing Barrel House, Deschutes Brewery Portland Pubic House, Hair of the Dog Brewery, Coalition Brewing

4. Anchorage, Alaska

Zero breweries existed in Alaska from 1979 until 1986, when Alaskan Brewing shipped its first cases of Chinook Alaskan Amber Beer. Almost everything other than water must be shipped to breweries in Alaska. The glacial water in Anchorage provides brewers with a fresh, pure ingredient to start with. Although the craft beer scene’s growth has been comparatively slow, the focus on quality has paid off.

The Pudding’s top 5:

Anchorage Brewing Company, Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Glacier Brewhouse, Broken Tooth Brewing Company, King Street Brewing Company

Yelp’s top 5:

Anchorage Brewing Company, Midnight Sun Brewing Company, 49th State Brewing Company, Cynosure Brewing, Resolution Brewing Company

3. Denver, Colorado

Denver is one of the few places in America that had a major brewery in the 1880s. Rocky Mountain Brewing served up cold ones for the miners in the area as well as the market between St. Louis and San Francisco. Then in 1873, Adolph Coors rolled into town and began production of Coors made from local spring water. Colorado’s beer history runs deep. Craft beer production began in the late 70s and picked up in the 90s. The variety of beers exploded in the past decade, and now Denver boasts a buzzing beer scene with classics and new ideas alike.

The Pudding’s top 5:

Great Divide Brewing Company, Crooked Stave, Hogshead Brewery, Comrade Brewing Company, Station 26 Brewing Company

Yelp’s top 5:

Great Divide Brewing Company, Epic Brewing Company, Cerebral Brewing, Banded Oak, Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery

2. San Diego, California

In 2016, San Diego had the most licensed craft breweries of any region in the United States. San Diego brewers were instrumental in the creation of the Double India Pale Ale. Some of San Diego’s larger craft beer brands can be found around the country, and the city has an annual beer week. San Diego hasn’t always been the brewing hub that it is today though. From prohibition to the 90s, brewing was essentially non-existent in San Diego. In the 90s, home brewing and brew pubs took off, and the fad grew into a beer crazy community. San Diego’s beer innovations have influenced the beer world ever since.

The Pudding’s top 5:

AleSmith Brewing Company, Green Flash Brewing Company, Societe Brewing Company, Pizza Port, Modern Times Beer

Yep’s top 5:

Pariah Brewing, Ballast Point Brewery, Align Brewing Company, Modern Times Beer, Societe Brewing Company

1. Santa Rosa, California

California helped kick off the start of the craft beer creation in the 19070s with Anchor Brewing Company and New Albion Brewing Company, and this state takes the number 1 and 2 spots. California has a whopping 623 craft breweries, and the movement seems to still be growing.

Santa Rosa is in wine country, and with beautiful scenery and a pleasant climate, it’s a good spot for sipping on local brews. Yelp has reviews for more than 20 breweries in the area, with most garnering 4 stars or more. Santa Rosa offers both quantity and quality.

The Pudding’s top 5:

Russian River Brewing, Bear Republic Brewing Company, Shady Oak Barrel House, Moonlight Brewing Company, Cooperage Brewing Company

Yelp’s top 5:

Russian River Brewing, Cooperage Brewing Company, Fogbelt Brewing Company, HenHouse Brewing Company, Moonlight Brewing

Choosing the “best” beer city is subjective, everyone will have a different opinion based on taste, preference and loyalty. The craft beer scene is also changing rapidly, this list could be entirely different by this time next year. Whatever beer you like though, it’s obvious that craft beers are here to stay.


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