Want to know the best cities in America to slam a cerveza? A recent study by Clever, a real estate data research firm, tallied towns for the top locations to settle down and tap some suds. After some data-driven research and probably a couple of pints, they came up with their list of the top beer cities in the U.S.
The study looked at the 50 most populous metro areas in the U.S. and then compared their number of breweries, density per 100 square miles, and beers and beer styles per brewery.
“We research and report on a variety of topics—including attributes about major cities that might entice people to move there,” says Clever’s lead researcher Francesca Ortegren. “This time we decided to focus on breweries because our team is filled with folks who love beer and visiting breweries when we explore new cities. So, we figured others could benefit from the information as we start to move out of pandemic-related lockdowns.”
In 2020, the pandemic hit America’s $94 billion beer market undoubtedly hard. Approximately 10 million gallons were dumped when kegs in locked-down stadiums and restaurants passed their expiration dates. The industry also faced shortages of both cans and (32-ounce, aluminum) crowlers.
“The can shortage is definitely for real!” says Rich Tucciarone, former head of brewing for Kona Brewing Co., and owner of Mountain Tap Brewery in Steamboat Springs, CO. Tucciarone explains how the pandemic forced the closure or reduced operations of most on-premise restaurants and bars, resulting in off-premise stores seeing huge increases in demand for canned beer, and thus an overall increase in can demand. “Now that things are opening back up, we’re seeing another large spike in demand,” he says. “Add to that labor shortages and shipping delays and it’s tough. I’m ordering way in advance and paying for extra storage space.”
Beer and breweries are coming back
But breweries are rebounding, bracing for what they, and restaurants and bars, hope is another Roaring ’20s of partying. Some are even keeping programs they initiated during the pandemic such as curbside pickup, online ordering and canning. Companies like Dogfish Head in Milton, DE, are even capitalizing on the non-alcoholic boom, with creations like its new Lemon Quest non-alcoholic wheat brew, while others chase the $2 billion hard seltzer boom.
In its report, Clever analyzed publicly available data to rank 50 of America’s most populous metropolitan areas from best to worst when it comes to beer. The weighted rankings evaluated the number of breweries within each metro area; the density of breweries per 100 square miles; the number of beers per brewery; and the number of beer styles per brewery.
In all the study examined 70,067 unique beers, finding the average brewery offers 19 different brews. The six California metro areas in the study collectively boast 423 breweries, or 13 percent of the list’s total. Portland, OR, tallied the most breweries in a single city at 183, or more than seven breweries per 100,000 residents. Nine cities on the list have more than 100 breweries, including Portland; Chicago; Los Angeles; Denver; San Francisco; Philadelphia; New York; Minneapolis-St. Paul; and Indianapolis. Occupying the bottom rung on the suds ladder are Salt Lake City and Riverside, CA, with zero each.
And the drum—or keg—roll, please:
5. Los Angeles
Among metro areas in California, Los Angeles leads with 158 breweries. While the City of Angels is often associated with vegan food, New Age wellness culture, and the entertainment industry, its beer culture also shines.
LA Beer Hop cites local brewers such as Eagle Rock, Lincoln Beer Company, and Arts District Brewing among the city’s top offerings. In nearby Long Beach, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing has also earned dozens of awards from the San Diego International Beer Competition, Great American Beer Festival, and World Beer Cup Competition.
Average beers per brewery: 20
Average beer styles per brewery: 12
Philadelphia has nearly triple the number of breweries compared to the number of delegates at the Constitutional Convention—139 to 55.
Priding itself on its role in America’s history, it also played a role in the founding of the nation’s beer culture with Dock Street Brewing Co. opening in 1985, one of the country’s first microbreweries. Today, favorites such as Victory, Sly Fox, and Yards have gained a national following.
Average beers per brewery: 26
Average beer styles per brewery: 15
Chicago has 180 breweries, the second-highest on the list for the Second City. The city prides itself on its tavern culture, honed through 160 years of brewing tradition. In a three-year period five years ago, the region saw 60 new breweries debut.
Time Out named local breweries Half Acre, Dovetail Brewery, and Goose Island among the city’s best. Movie buffs may certainly recognize Revolution Brewing from its appearance in Drinking Buddies, starring Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick.
Average beers per brewery: 32
Average beer styles per brewery: 15
Indianapolis breweries excel at variety, with an average of 39 brews per brewery—more than any other metro area. Indianapolis’s tourism website promises a “pint for every palate,” with the beer industry fueling more than $1 billion of the state’s overall economy, according to the Brewers of Indiana Guild.
Along with traditional pubs and tasting rooms, Indianapolis also offers such tasting experiences as Books & Brews. Here you can order a literary-themed beer and browse the in-house used bookstore.
Average beers per brewery: 39
Average beer styles per brewery: 20
1. San Francisco
With an average of six breweries per 100 square miles, the San Francisco metro area has double the density of breweries of the No. 2 metro area on the list.
San Francisco is home to Anchor Steam, the brewery that arguably kicked off the nation’s craft beer movement. Now it’s got another 143 other breweries to carry on the tradition.
Average beers per brewery: 19
Average beer styles per brewery: 11
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