In the past few decades, the craft beer scene has grown exponentially in American culture. And with over 6,000 breweries located across all 50 states, it’s no surprise that several areas have become sudsy hotspots to sample everything from the lightest blonde ales to the darkest imperial stouts. Whether you’re a beer snob pining for a new brew or a traveler who just enjoys a cold one while sightseeing, here are the five best cities in the U.S. to quench your thirst.
Given the fact that the metropolis is dubbed Brew City and its professional baseball team is named the Brewers, it’s safe to presume Milwaukee knows a thing or two about barley, yeast and hops. For one, the city is beer-soaked with rich history. German immigrants settled in the city in the mid 1800s, bringing their expertise of producing high-quality lagers along with them. Eventually, this led to the formation of some of America’s largest breweries – Pabst, Schlitz and Miller. Although Schlitz moved its headquarters to Los Angeles, hard-drinking historians can still get their fix by visiting the Pabst Milwaukee Brewery and Taproom and taking a tour of the Miller Brewing Company.
But don’t think craft breweries are nonexistent just because juggernauts Miller and Pabst call Milwaukee home. Sprecher Brewery, which also cranks out delicious hard soda, offers a popular tour highlighting brewing techniques rooted in German-American tradition. Health-conscious drinkers will appreciate Lakefront Brewery for its tasty assortment of organic and gluten-free beer. As far as bars go, you would be remiss to not drop by Holler House, a local treasure with the country’s oldest bowling alley and patrons’ bras dangling from the ceiling.
In the past, Michigan’s second-largest city was predominantly known as Furniture City due its history of manufacturing office furniture. But now, with around 40 breweries, countless beer tours and beer-related events year-round, Grand Rapids has proudly claimed the title Beer City, USA. A huge reason for the city’s booming beer scene is Founders Brewing Company, which has become one of the nation’s most celebrated breweries since its launch in 1997. Along with its extensive selection of intoxicating, handcrafted brews, the taproom offers monstrous gourmet sandwiches and some of the best live music in town. Be sure to schedule your beercation around March and April when KBS, the brewery’s coveted bourbon barrel-aged chocolate coffee stout, is available.
Once you’ve quenched your thirst at Founders, chow down on duck nachos paired with a Belgian-style beer at Brewery Vivant, which is housed in a refurbished funeral home. Growing brewpub chain Hopcat gives you a chance to sample the best ales and lagers Michigan has to offer while munching on their aptly named crack fries. If you’re a fan of America’s favorite pastime, slide into the baseball-themed Mitten Brewing Company, featuring ice cold drafts sporting clever names including Triple Crown Brown, The Stretch and Put Me In, Kolsch.
From record shops to arcades, to mini-golf courses and art galleries, there are so many establishments in Portland you can toss back a cold one, it wouldn’t be shocking if you were handed a pint at the dentist office. In all seriousness, Rose City cherishes craft beer, as it boasts a whopping 76 breweries within city limits and 41 bars per 100,000 residents. But with the sheer amount of variety, where does a beer-loving traveler even begin? Consider embracing Portland’s cycle-friendly culture by booking a brewery bike tour, giving you the opportunity to soak up the sights and sounds – and burn a few calories – in between sips.
If you’d rather forge your own path, the Pearl District, featuring six breweries and nearly 30 bars, makes an excellent starting point. Outside this vibrant neighborhood, Widmer Brothers Brewery arguably serves the freshest Hefeweizen in the city. If your palate leans toward the sour side, look no further than Cascade Brewing, a family-owned brewery known for its fruit-forward, barrel-aged ales. You can also plan your stay in late July during the Oregon Brewers Festival, one of the world’s largest craft beer festivals drawing over 80,000 beer enthusiasts annually.
While this western North Carolina town might lack the population of heavy hitters like Portland or San Diego, it boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the country. Asheville’s beer boom kicked off in 1994 when Highland Brewing Company became the town’s first legal brewery since the Prohibition era, helping transform the city into the thriving craft beer haven it is today. Some say it’s also due to the fact that Asheville is surrounded by an abundance of mountain water featuring ideal pH levels for brewing beer. Either way, craft giants Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues and New Belgium caught wind of the flourishing beer scene and have all opened outposts in the artsy mountain town.
When it’s time to get a taste of the local suds, head to downtown Asheville, where several of its breweries are located within walking distance of each other. At Wicked Weed Brewing, treat your taste buds to the award-winning Pernicious IPA or one of the stellar barrel-aged brews. For sour beer lovers, get ready to pucker up at The Funkatorium, Wicked Weed’s taproom dedicated to sour and funky brews. If you want to press pause on breweries, stroll over to Thirsty Monk, a bi-level bar offering over 50 beers on tap and an extensive bottle collection.
With idyllic year-round weather, a shimmering coastline and over 120 licensed breweries and brewpubs, San Diego County is without a doubt a beer lover’s paradise. The city produces a wide range of craft beers, but is best known for IPAs, and more particularly, double IPAs, which some people call San Diego’s signature beer.
To savor these hoppy delights, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Stone Brewing, where you can sip their bitter brews amidst gorgeous, verdant gardens. Next, head up north to Miramar for Ballast Point Brewing Company. The Sculpin IPA is a staple among craft beer aficionados, but if you need something a little lighter and more laid-back, it’s worth sampling the California Kolsch. To round out your IPA tour, make a pit stop at Green Flash Brewing Company to try its legendary West Coast IPA balanced with tropical grapefruit notes.
Of course, drinking craft beer is always better with a view, especially when it’s the glistening Pacific Ocean. At Amplified Ale Works, watch the waves from the rooftop patio as you delight in hop-forward brews and the tastiest kebobs in SoCal. If Mediterranean cuisine isn’t your bag, head down the street for locally sourced fare at Pacific Beach AleHouse, offering equally impressive oceanfront views and house-brewed beers. For the perfect recipe of beachside atmosphere, oven-fresh pizza and award-winning beer, there’s no better place to live like a true San Diegan than Pizza Port in Ocean Beach.
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