It was once the case that a beer city happened to be adjacent to a big national brewery (we're looking at you, St. Louis). But as we all know, the American beer-scape has changed in the last 30 years. Today, there are more than 4,000 craft breweries in the U.S., and most of them are microbreweries — small enough to squeeze into the confined space of a city. So if you want to drink the best beers in the world, head downtown — to San Diego, Philadelphia, Portland, and Milwaukee. The following is a list of cities with beer scenes spearheaded by people who passionately care about brewing and who serve the finest beers in the world. Some towns are more brewery-centric, while others are more intimately connected with the international beer world. But they all take beer to another level, and they all deserve to be on your travel wish list.
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Ever since Polish and German immigrants settled along Lake Michigan's Wisconsin shore in the early 1800s, Milwaukee has been a city soaked in beer. Locals brew it, celebrate with it, mourn with it, and occasionally drink it during midmorning work breaks. Thanks to several new efforts to immerse tourists in the longstanding local hops culture, the Brew City is becoming the ultimate destination for hard-drinking history buffs.
Best Brews, Breweries, and Bars
Credit: Milwaukee Food & City Tours
The brand-new Historic Bar Tour, put on by established local company Milwaukee Food & City Tours, takes visitors on a three-hour bus trip between different pre-Prohibition taverns that serve up local ale and Wisconsin's official-unofficial state cocktail, the Brandy Old-Fashioned. Drinkers start at the Landmark 1850 Inn, Milwaukee's oldest tavern, then move to Puddler's Hall (established 1874), where early union leaders cried out for justice while polishing off their pints. Next up is a bit of gnoshing at the Historic White House Tavern, which stocks every variety of cured meat that has ever come out of Germany. The final stop is Holler House, which has the nation's oldest bowling alley in its basement and female patrons' bras dangling from every beam and light fixture. In typical Milwaukee style, the owner, an octogenarian named Marcy, still tends bar and cracks jokes that make sailors blush.