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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San Francisco, California
With the 1896 Anchor Brewing Company as its founding father, San Francisco's beer scene is a mix of West Coast style and locavore pride. Newer breweries craft everything from English ales to experimental farmhouse saisons. Beer bars and gastropubs serve top-notch locally sourced food. Hey, it's Alice Waters country.
Best Brews, Breweries, and Bars
A Mission District must, Monk's Kettle is the city's defining gastropub with beer-centric chef Adam Duyle at the helm. The draft list has plenty of local and Belgian brews, plus there's a selection of vintage beers from the cellar. Focus on beer and beer alone (there's no kitchen) at the dimly lit Toronado Pub, where a jumble of tap handles represents a diverse tap list, which may include the locally brewed, sessionable 21st Amendment Bitter American.
On the Upper Haight, the Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery has been brewing British-style ales in the basement since the 1990s, including the dank and hoppy Proving Ground IPA. Look for the new Magnolia brewery, taproom, and BBQ joint in the Dogpatch next spring.
An American take on a Copenhagen classic, the new Mikkeller Bar has quickly become a beer nerd destination, with 40 taps and two casks attached to the formidable Flux Capacitor draft system. Think selections from Nøgne, Hill Farmstead, and, Mikkeller.
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