These cities aren’t just the ones with the most breweries — though breweries play a huge role in whether or not a place is a great destination for beer geeks. In addition to some of the best craft breweries in the U.S., these cities also offer up unique bars with lengthy tap and bottle lists, are home to friendly locals, and are oftentimes walkable or tour-able for beer drinkers so you don’t have to worry about a designated driver.
Hailed as the “South’s standout brewing scene” by USA Today, this town with a population of 83,000 people boats 26 breweries. The boom kicked off with Highland Brewing Company in the ‘90s, long before craft beer took over the country at large, and has expanded today with innovative breweries like Wicked Weed and Burial. Some say it’s the pH level of the water that makes this town so idyllic for craft brews, and others say it’s simply the walkable Asheville Ale Trails, which allow you to explore the town’s many breweries without worries of a DUI.
The most important thing about a beer lover’s paradise is being able to walk from place to place, and Billings features the only self-guided, walkable brewery tour in Montana. Along the way you’ll stop at Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co., Überbrew, Carter’s Brewing, Angry Hank’s, Thirsty Street Brewing Co., Montana Brewing Co., and two distilleries. Sounds like the perfect Saturday to us!
James Koch’s Boston Beer Company may be the anchor of Beantown’s beer scene, but this iconic American city has another big fish in its waters with the spacious Harpoon Brewery. And one can’t forget to pick up a bottle (or three) from one of the most innovative beersmiths on the East Coast, Trillium. Boston goes beyond breweries with its craft beer institutions such as Sunset Grill & Tap, Bukowski Tavern, and everyone’s favorite TV bar, Bull & Finch Pub — aka the Cheers bar.
Portland may get all the attention, but another beacon of beer exists 160 miles away in Bend. With a relatively small population of 77,000 people, Bend has 22 breweries, including one of the original craft breweries, Deschutes, named after the local river. Like many great beer cities, Bend features a walkable brewery trail of its own, featuring a stamp-able passport. If you visit 10 breweries, you get a pint glass. If you visit 15, you’ll get a bottle opener. Just be sure not to do it all in one day (or you may not remember brewery No. 15).
Denver may be the first Colorado city that comes to mind when one thinks of beer, but nearby Boulder absolutely should not be overlooked. With 21 breweries such as Avery Brewing, Boulder Beer, and Twisted Pine, this scenic town is a beer lover’s paradise. If the sources themselves aren’t enough for you, Boulder features some of Colorado’s finest beer bars, such as the West End Tavern, which changes its 25 craft beer taps daily.
Forget Manhattan: A true beer lover knows that Brooklyn is where it’s at these days. With 18 breweries, one can plan an entire vacation around visiting incredible spaces such as Coney Island Brewing Co., Folksbier, and of course the OG Brooklyn Brewery. One also can’t forget IPA maven Other Half; its can releases on Saturdays can have lines that wrap around the block (and then some). Brooklyn is also the home of unique beer bars such as The Gate, Mission Dolores, and Tørst, where you’re always guaranteed to find something totally new and unique on tap. If that’s not enough for you, Brooklyn is also just a subway ride away from Queens, which features innovative breweries such as Finback, LIC Beer Project, and Bridge and Tunnel.
The sprawling city of Chicago is the home of an insane number of breweries, each of which offers up something different. Off Color, Revolution, and Finch Beer are all proudly based in the Windy City, and the California-based Lagunitas opened a massive facility here in 2012. In addition to its numerous breweries, Chicago also features some pretty unique beer-centric restaurants, such as Belgian hotspot Hopleaf. And of course, one can’t even mention Chicago without mentioning Goose Island. Despite its sale to AB InBev, the brewery’s iconic 312 Urban Wheat is as integral to Chicago food culture as a loaded hot dog or deep-dish pizza.
Cincinnati was practically built on beer, and the city’s recent hipster influx has greatly been aided by craft brews. Beer hotspots like the Brass Tap and The Lackman are supported by top-notch local breweries such as Rivertown, Rhinegeist, MadTree and Mt. Carmel. If all of that beer isn’t enough for you, head across the Ohio River to Newport, Kentucky, which has one of the best porches at its Hofbrauhaus that this writer has ever seen.
Led by the iconic Great Lakes Brewing Company and its Christmas Ale, the Cle is the home to nearly 20 craft breweries, including the Brew Kettle, Platform, Market Garden, and the award winning Fat Head’s. Cleveland’s thriving brewery scene is complemented by a slew of awesome beer bars, including City Tap, Tremont Taphouse, and local chains like Melt Bar & Grilled and the Winking Lizard Tavern. Come for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Indians, but stay in Cleveland for the beer.
With more breweries than we can honestly even count, every beer lover knows that Denver is the place to go for craft beers. Crooked Stave, Renegade, Denver Beer Co., and Great Divide are just a few of the breweries you’ll find there. But, honestly, it seems like everywhere you turn in Denver, you’ll find another brewpub. Once a year, Denver moves beyond its local reputation and becomes a complete and total mecca for beer geeks when it hosts the Great American Beer Festival. The entire city is taken over by the festival for one of the best beer tastings and competitions that one could ever experience.
Founders Brewing Company’s KBS. Need we say any more? OK, we probably should, because Grand Rapids has a ton to offer beer fans. Founders holds up the vibrant Grand Rapids brewery scene, which also is the home to Harmony, Latitude 42, and Grand Rapids Brewing Company. If that isn’t enough for you, the brewery/bar chain Hopcat is based in Grand Rapids and the city is also the home to one of Michigan’s top beer bars, Logan’s Alley.
Long Island may be better known for its numerous wineries, but honestly, it has just as many breweries. A weekend trip away from New York City can be filled exclusively with visits to the scenic towns on Long Island and their local breweries. Highlights include Port Jeff, Oyster Bay, and Sand City, but the incredible beers offered are truly endless. Of course, one can’t go out to Long Island without popping in to Blue Point Brewing Company. Despite its recent sale to AB InBev, the space itself remains quaint, and their signature Toasted Lager will never taste better than straight from the source.
Milwaukee is a haven for beer historians. Pabst, Schlitz, Leinenkugel, and Miller all started in this Midwestern haven — their roots can be felt in the streets, and no visit to Milwaukee would be complete without a stop at Miller. But, don’t expect to only find big brews here. Milwaukee has kept up with the times and is filled with amazing craft breweries, such as Horny Goat, Lakefront Brewery, and Sprecher Brewery, which offers a popular tour that highlights old-fashioned brewing techniques. Beer bars such as Bernie's Tap Room & Restaurant, Romans' Pub, and Camino are an absolute beer lover’s dream with rotating taps and different brews served every day.
The Twins Cities are practically overflowing with new, bustling breweries. Highlights include the walkable North Loop of Minneapolis, which includes InBound BrewCo, The Freehouse, Modist Brewing Co., and Fulton Brewery. If that’s not enough for you (as well as Minneapolis’ numerous other breweries), hop over to St. Paul and visit Summit Brewing. Don’t forget to fill your belly (and have a few drinks, of course) at eateries such as The Happy Gnome, The Muddy Pig, and Groveland Tap.
Philadelphia is booming in many ways, including in its craft beer scene. Free Will Brewing and Sly Fox Beer are local highlights, but don’t rule out some of Philly’s best beer bars too, including the BelgianMonk’s Café, Standard Tap, and The Taproom where — get this — everything is on tap! Don’t be afraid to venture a little bit outside of the city itself and go to Downingtown for Victory. Highlights at that brewing giant include the Golden Monkey, HopDevil, and Hop Ranch Double IPA.
Like many cities, craft beer has absolutely taken over Pittsburgh. You don’t need to go to great brewpubs like the Beer Market Pittsburgh, Smokin’ Joes Saloon, or Sharp Edge to get a quality beer. Even the dingiest dive bar will have something solid on tap. If you don’t want to just bar hop (which would be a great craft beer experience on its own), go to some of the local breweries such as East End Brewing Company, Grist House, and Hop Farm.
The seaside town of Portland, Maine, is quietly one of the most bustling beer cities in the U.S. Downtown alone boasts numerous quality breweries, including Liquid Riot, Rising Tide, Bunker, and Bissell Brothers, who are serving some of the haziest, dankest East Coast-style IPAs you’ll ever come across. Just a short drive away are Maine Brewing Company, which serves its iconic beers in a charming farmhouse, and Allagash, which offers up free tastings of its bottled beers. Everywhere you turn in Portland, there’s another incredible beer bar and a lobster roll. Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.
With over 70 breweries within its city limits, it’s kind of hard to top the Portland, Oregon, beer scene, to be perfectly honest. Breakside, Cascade, Hair of the Dog, and Gigantic are serving some of the most innovative, unique beers in the country, and that’s really just the tip of the Portland iceberg. You don’t have to go to beer-centric eateries such as Cascade Brewing Barrel House, Belmont Station, or Horse Brass Pub to enjoy an incredible beer. Seemingly every establishment in Portland — from the mini-golf course to the movie theater to the museum — serves beer.
We have four words to convince you to go to Santa Rosa: Russian River Brewing Company. Sipping on a Pliny the Elder from the source itself (or its more elusive counterpart Pliny the Younger) is worth the pilgrimage itself. If that’s really not enough for you, you can head to a nearby brewpub such as Cooperage, Fogbelt, or Third Street Aleworks. Also don’t forget to stop by one the massive superstore Bottle Barn for some reasonably priced, high-quality beers by the bottle to take home.
There are plenty of famous breweries who call San Diego home, such as Ballast Point, Stone, Green Flash, Alesmith, and Alpine Beer. But you don’t have to go to those hotspots to have a good time (though you definitely should). Beyond the obvious haunts, San Diego hosts dozens of breweries, including (but not limited to) Monkey Paw, Duck Foot, and Pizza Port. Beyond that, one can drink around the many bars in San Diego such as High Dive Bar & Grill, Small Bar, or the Tipsy Crow and enjoy the idyllic weather and a beer on a patio.
Craft beer more or less started with Anchor Brewing’s Anchor Steam Beer, so drinking one at the brewery is an absolute must-do for beer lovers. That’s pretty much worth a trip to San Francisco alone. The bonus of going to San Fran for a beer vacation is that you also get to experience a number of other great breweries within easy walking distance. 21st Amendment, Black Hammer, Local Brewing Co., and ThirstyBear are all right along the Bay.
Portland may get all of the glory when it comes to Pacific Northwest beer cities, but don’t sleep on Seattle by any means. As we know from its massive coffee business, Seattle takes its beverages seriously. In addition to being the home of four Elysian locations, Seattle is the home to Two Beers, Fremont, and Pike, all of which serve up amazing beers. If the 16-plus breweries aren’t enough to make you want to book a flight, consider going to the Stumbling Monk for a wide selection of local craft brews or to Kells Irish Restaurant for the best Guinness you’ll find on the West Coast.
You can’t even think about St. Louis without thinking about beer, and there’s one reason why: Budweiser. Say what you will about Anheuser-Busch, but a visit to its historic brewery is an absolute must for those interested in the story of beer in America. After paying a visit to Budweiser, be sure to do your part for the craft beer scene by visiting 2nd Shift, LaTrobe, and Augusta. We also recommend visiting St. Louis sometime in October, because craft brewers O’Fallon and Schlafly make some of the best pumpkin beers in the country every fall.
Florida isn’t necessarily known for its craft beer scene — until you get to Tampa. Cigar City is always brewing up something new and creative, and its tour is well worth the trip to Tampa alone. Of course, you can’t go to any city just for one brewery, so after visiting Cigar City, one should look to go to 7venth Sun, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, and Coppertail. The bustling beer bar chain World of Beer is also based in Florida, so if you’ve never been to one of these pubs before, stop by the Tampa location. The long tap list and insanely extensive bottle list will guarantee something for everyone in your party.
Traverse City is a charming town in Northern Michigan, and the most charming thing about it is its wide selection of craft beers. Right Brain, North Peak, and Short’s all brew some truly, truly funky beers unlike anything else you’ll see on the market. Like many of the smaller towns on this list, Traverse City is easy to maneuver as a beer fan with multiple ways to do bar and brewery tours, with up to 16 stops. Want to bike and drink around town? Bike! You can also take a bus, canoe, or kayak around town, stopping at local bars and pubs all along the way.
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