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.
RELATED: The 101 Best Beers in America
This longtime craft-brewing powerhouse continues to dominate the numbers board, with 52 breweries inside the city limits — more breweries than any other city in the world. For the beer drinker, that means real range. Portland's a place where you can hole up in a British-style pub with an extraordinary tap list or visit one of the country's largest craft brewers for a taste of beers made with experimental hops.
Best Brews, Breweries, and Bars
One of the city's original craft breweries, Widmer Brothers Brewing remains a stalwart. The brewpub serves impressive one-offs made from experimental hops (varieties grown especially for Widmer) alongside the iconic Hefeweizen, which is freshest here. Up the street, the celestial-themed Ecliptic Brewery is the city's newest destination brewery. Beers, including the Filament Winter IPA, change according to the old-world solstice calendar.
Cascade Barrel Brewing House taps its own sour ales, some straight from the barrel. Try the Sang Noir, a double red aged in pinot and whiskey barrels blended with cherries. Find more sours and Belgian-inspired beers at the casual taproom inside The Commons Brewery.
The British-inspired Horse Brass Pub is a world-class watering hole that feels British, but revolves around a tap list of stellar Pacific Northwest beers.
Credit: Terence Lee / Getty Images