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Tour the World's Best Beer Cities

The Beer Connoisseur's Top 24 Beer Cities

 


12. PORTLAND, MAINE

Portland, Maine's beer scene germinated during the craft brew revolution, with pioneers like D.L Geary BrewingShipyard Brewing, and others sowing the seeds. Now, the little “city by the sea” is enjoying an effervescent beer revival with new breweries opening monthly, each with a unique style. Our vibrant, diverse beer ecosystem is populated by wild-fermented Belgians (Allagash), fresh-hopped, floral canned ales (Bissel Brothers), farmhouse Ales (Oxbow), continental lagers (Bunker Brewing) and stylistic outliers like alcoholic kombucha, hopped cider and mead (Urban Farm Fermentory). This ecosystem is nurtured by a huge swath of bars, pubs and fine-dining restaurants that know a tap line-up is just as important as the wine list. Better still, Portland nurtures new brewers, encouraging collaboration, experimentation, unique flavors and plenty of special events. Perched on the shores of scenic Casco Bay, most bars, restaurants and breweries are a short walk from a compact downtown.

– Seth Levy

Photo Credit: Flickr/Allagash Brewing


11. PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

For 17 years, Beer Hunter Michael Jackson entranced Philadelphia with his signature beer tastings at the Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, drawing 4,000 people to experience his entertaining digressions each year. These days, Philadelphia boasts a grass-roots reputation as the lifeblood of Philly Beer Week, Philly Beer Geek, and a flash-mob of award-winning breweries, festivals, and beer clubs. Its location near the coast marries the beer-rich culture of the Northeast with the diversity of European and Scandinavian traditions. Through an appreciation for out-of-the-box thinking, big names like Tom Peters, Fergus Carey, Joe Sixpack and William Reed have turned Philly into The City of Brotherly Suds, where pairing your favorite YardsIron Hill, Tired HandsVictory, Manayunk, Evil Genius, or Dock Street brew with a Philly cheesesteak -- wit or wit-out -- is a regional “must.” While you’re at it, look out for ALEiens.

– Carolyn Smagalksi​


10. BAMBERG, GERMANY

This most photogenic epicenter of a dense brewing scene has it all to seduce the traveling beer lover. Not only does this UNESCO Heritage city have stalwarts of the German import scene like SchlenkerlaMahr’s and Spezial, but it also serves as the gateway to nearly 300 other traditional village breweries, all within a few kilometers from the center. Biking from brewery to brewery is often too fast a means of transport; there are just too many to try in every direction. Add to that a few beer bars, stunning viewpoints, and the exquisite Weyermann Maltings, and you start to understand the scope of this beer-centric city and region now known for its smoke beers. Simply put, Bamberg is a gem from a time forgotten where nearly every neighborhood and village in Germany had its own brewery.

– Martin Thibault

Photo Credit: Flickr/George M Groutas


9. GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN

Consistently ranked as one of the greatest beer cities in the world, probably due to its proclaimed status as “Beer City, USA,” Grand Rapids, Michigan certainly merits that moniker with an impressive amount of destination craft breweries within the city limits. While the famed Founders Brewing Co. takes the cake with stunning brick exterior and amazing craft beers within (led by barrel-aged rarities KBS and CBS), Grand Rapids is home to many more smaller breweries that deserve just as much credit for creating the amazing beer culture that the city is home to. Brewery Vivant (pictured above) is housed in a stunning Belgian-inspired taproom replete with stained glass and striking wood beams overhead – the beers live up to the stylistic interior as well. There are so many breweries in close proximity that it’s almost impossible to make time for all of them, though The Mitten, HarmonyCrestonGreyline, City Built and Thornapple, which offers beer, cider, mead and wine, certainly merit mentions.

– Chris Guest

Photo Credit: Brewery Vivant


8. MUNICH, GERMANY

Beer fests have evolved over time, but nothing compares to the Queen Mother of them all. Oktoberfest can be described as part pilgrimage, part state fair and part family reunion with a dash of medieval revival. But even after the tents are packed, is there be a better place in the world to enjoy a stein of liquid bliss than Munich? The original Seven Sisters of Munich breweries have effectively been reduced to three blended families, but the brewing tradition endures and is most evident at the revered Hofbräuhaus München (pictured above), though Spaten and Paulaner certainly have their fair share of historical brewing significance. There is even an aptly named Munich toasted malt that is used in Munich Dunkel, Märzen, Oktoberfest and Doppelbock, all classic beer styles with roots in the city. Helles, a close cousin of Pils, also can also be traced back to Munich. Craft beer has even taken a stronghold in the city known for the Reinhetsgebot, with Crew Republic exhorting locals to "become a part of the craft beer revolution." Bavarian Weizen flows year-round and small breweries with a knack for innovation have returned. Whether your choice is to grab a bench in a traditional beer hall in the old city, to take a seat on a glorious summer day in a well shaded outdoor beer garden in the city center, or a stool at a trendy beer bar, your stein will never be empty.  Traditional, modern, or a unique mixture of both, Munich never disappoints. Prost!

– Phil Farrell


7. BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

It wasn't the Boston Tea Party - It was the Boston BEER Party!  Boston celebrates with 16 breweries and brewpubs in the region and boasts the Bull & Finch, where tourist shtick lives on at the Original Cheers Bar. Boston’s celebrity includes Will Meyers of Cambridge Brewing and Jim Koch – “Isn’t that the guy on TV?” – of Sam Adams Beer fame. Sam Adams Boston Lager debuted at 25 Boston taprooms in the spring of 1985, closely followed by Harpoon Brewery in 1986. In Boston’s Publick House, “I’m working the Night Shift” takes on a whole new meaning with a Taza Stout in hand, or grab the world’s best lobster roll at Row 34. Speaking of the night shift, Night Shift Brewing lies just 10 minutes north of the city center and offers tremendous New England-style IPAs in strikingly designed cans, such as Morph or Santilli. Another pioneer of the hazy New England IPA is Trillium Brewing Co., which has a flagship location on Congress Street in Boston's Fort Point neighborhood. Like most big cities, there’s a beer fest for every season, but how about Beantown’s Bacon and Beer Fest? Need I say more?

– Carolyn Smagalksi


6. ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

How did a small town in North Carolina beat out Beer City, USA and various other beer strongholds around the world for a spot in the Top 10? It could be the gorgeous mountain water, or it could just be something in the air (wild cultures for brewing perhaps?). Either way, Asheville is home to some of the finest breweries in the South. Despite being snapped up by AB InBev recently, Wicked Weed and its Funkatorium are both destination breweries of the highest order, as nothing quite beats an Imperial Coolcumber on draft with a sizable cucumber slice on the lip of the glass from Wicked Weed’s taproom. Elsewhere, Burial Beer Co. often has long lines for limited releases, Green Man’s new Green Mansion location is a striking double-decker craft beer haven, Hi-Wire also offers terrific liquid treats, Highland’s recent rebrand brings more attention to its stellar consistency and Asheville Brewing Co. is a tremendous spot for the perfect pairing: pizza and beer. Asheville has also caught the attention of the BA’s Top 50 Breweries as New Belgium, Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues have all opened nearby flagship breweries to further their reach in the South.

– Chris Guest

Photo Credit: Chris Guest


5. SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

Is there a locale in the U.S. that has more impact breweries than San Diego? The brands of Stone Brewing (pictured above), Ballast Point and Modern Times along with The Lost AbbeyKarl StraussAleSmith and Pizza Port can all be found in San Diego County. More recent additions to San Diego's brewing scene have been no less impactful, with Mission, Societe, Council, Second Chance, Saint Archer, Intergalactic, Belching Beaver and Amplified Ale Works all making their home in San Diego. For foodies, it’s a similar story starting with the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, which is groundbreaking in more ways than one given its own nearby farm. If you can’t get to the breweries, O'Brien’s Pub is known as the hoppiest place on earth, which is saying something given the perennial sunshine in southernmost California and the love of West Coast hops in these environs. From 15-barrel breweries like Pizza Port Ocean Beach to tap houses like Churchill’s Pub or upscale eateries, there’s plenty of imaginative dishes and excellent pairings to match. To quote the late Charlie Gow, “A determined enthusiast could spend a full week of continuous tours of breweries, brewpubs and alehouses in San Diego County, yet still not cover the rapidly growing beer scene.”                                

– Jonathan Ingram

Photo Credit: Stone Brewing Co.


4. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

Picture this. You're in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. You won't have to walk more than a couple of blocks to find an old school pub where about $1.50 can buy you half a litre of perfectly tapped, unpasteurized  Pilsner Urquell. But before going in you notice another pub – maybe around the corner, across the street or almost next door to the first one – that sells Pale Lager you've never heard of. It’s not only cheaper than Pilsner Urquell, but maybe even better! Maybe it’s not a bar, but one of the 20 or so brewpubs in the city (such as one cheekily called Prague Beer Museum)? Or perhaps one of the growing number of restaurants, cafés and even bookstores specialized in craft beers from the whole country, and beyond? Many of these locations are centuries-old, such as The Hostivar Brewery, Jihoměstský pivovar, U Tří růží, New Town Brewery Restaurant and Klášterní pivovar Strahov. The city is almost Kafkaesque in terms of its intrigue, but drinking beer here is a more immediate and palate-friendly quest. That's Prague, a place where the classic and the new live side by side, often in the same room.

 – Max Bahnson


3. DENVER, COLORADO

A yearly beer pilgrimage from my home in Belgium brings me to Denver for plenty of reasons. Each fall, the Great American Beer Festival gathers beer lovers and professionals under one huge roof, allowing each to stand shoulder to shoulder and sample the best of U.S. craft. There’s a number of examples of any imaginable beer style.

During the same period, the city is awash with hundreds of super interesting and novel beer events, many including live music. Then, you have the brewery and brewpub scene, getting more and more vibrant and crowded over the years. Craft beer bar Falling Rock Tap House, an icon when it comes to multi-tap quality serving, was the first and is now joined by plenty others. Many of these pub stops are serving beers brewed in Denver by Crooked Stave, EpicDry DockGreat Divide, Cerebral, TrveBreckenridge, WynkoopBull & Bush, Renegade, Diebolt and Call to Arms in addition to nano brewpubs working on one-barrel systems.

– Carl Kins

Photo Credit: Strange Craft Brewing Co.


2. LONDON, ENGLAND

Good beer has been part of the daily fabric of city life for centuries in London. It’s the original home to IPA and porter for good reason – demand has always been in place for better beer. For current beer drinkers, choices are increasingly good due to the proliferation of microbreweries in England and the standard of beer in the pubs being driven up by the discerning drinker wanting more from his or her pint.

There are great pubs all over the heaving metropolis in a wide variety of settings. A London resident and real ale aficionado, I can find independent as well as tied pubs in every segment of the city with multiple hand-pulled taps, where more than a few of the real ale casks are influenced by the new interest in more hoppy styles. The pubs are virtually all accessible on the London Underground and many of them in an area of the city that has some of the most popular sightseeing attractions celebrating England’s history, politics and culture.

In an ever-evolving beer scene, the keg beer versus real ale on cask debate has hotted up due to the presence of BrewDog and Meantime, each with lively modern pubs. The fabled Fuller's Brewery offers brewery tours for a manageable £20 on Monday to Saturday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m and the Bermondsey Beer Mile lets lucky drinkers imbibe lovely brews at various venues (including Partizan, Fourpure, Eebria, Brew by Numbers, U Brew and Bottle Shop) on a Saturday. If it’s beer history you’re after in addition to pubs that date back centuries, numerous markers and sights can be discovered where the once mighty have fallen in favor of new businesses.

– Gary Watkins


1. PORTLAND, OREGON

Density makes Portland the craft beer capital of the world. Not just that we have more breweries than any other city – about 85 in the metro area, a number that increases monthly. But craft beer is everywhere. The diviest dive bar has a couple of craft taps. Fried-chicken-and-cigarette mini marts are growler fill stations, as are some Safeways – all 49 of them easy to find on the latest growler-fill map. There's a Chinese restaurant that brews its own rice lager. We have taprooms, tasting rooms, bottleshops and brewpubs by the bushel. We have beer tour buses, walking pub tours and pedal lounges powered by enthusiastic beer tourists. A list of all the breweries in Portland would take up many, many pages, but some of the highlights rank among the best breweries in America.

Portland is home to Deschutes Brewery, a craft beer figurehead for 30 years, Ecliptic Brewing, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Great Notion, Base Camp, Gigantic, Lompoc, Burnside, Hair of the Dog, Cascade, Laurelwood, Alameda, Breakside and many, many more (whew!).

In short, good beer has gone viral: Portland has long had a great pub culture (how else to deal with a gray Portland winter?) and we have a wealth of resources – great water and some of the world's best hops within an hour's drive. Plus, the brewing infrastructure, maltsters, stainless steel fabricators, yeast suppliers, a bottle plant and more, was already in place from the days of Blitz Weinhard and other industrial brewers.

All these things made Portland ripe for revolution, but we beer drinkers can take credit too, because we were willing to try that funny cloudy hefeweizen from Widmer Bros. or BridgePort's shockingly hoppy India Pale Ale. Portlanders' love of artisan coffee, bread and chocolate and our passion for this amazing place – for community and local ingredients – are all reasons why the beer here flourishes.

– John Foyston     


READ MORE OF THE BEER CONNOISSEUR'S BEST-OF LISTS!


 

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Comments

Martin Thibault's picture
John, Bamberg is situated in Franken (Franconia, in English), a region in northern Bavaria. You can learn about this region's 300 or so breweries here: http://franconiabeerguide.com/index.php
thomas.barbera's picture
I did 12 of these 20 cities I should say than I mostly agree with your selection except maybe Dublin. Intesresting city but I think than some other ones deserve to be into this post before. I am thinking about Barcelona, Paris or Brussels which are for me better to visit than Dublin.
JOSEPH T BURKE's picture
I have gone to 16 of the 20 and most of them just because of the beer. First I would move Bruges to a much higher position as it is all about beer there. Second, I love Dublin however as the other fellow said, not much of a selection of beers there, but the pubs are great if you drink stout. Put Brussels on the list in it's place, or maybe Ghent.
cantrollmyrs's picture
Why would you not list Grand Rapids Michigan? They have Bells, Founders, New Holland, Perrin just to to name a few. They have more breweries than even the likes of Chicago and a per capita brewery seen that is probably the highest in the country.

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Comments

Martin Thibault's picture
John, Bamberg is situated in Franken (Franconia, in English), a region in northern Bavaria. You can learn about this region's 300 or so breweries here: http://franconiabeerguide.com/index.php
thomas.barbera's picture
I did 12 of these 20 cities I should say than I mostly agree with your selection except maybe Dublin. Intesresting city but I think than some other ones deserve to be into this post before. I am thinking about Barcelona, Paris or Brussels which are for me better to visit than Dublin.
JOSEPH T BURKE's picture
I have gone to 16 of the 20 and most of them just because of the beer. First I would move Bruges to a much higher position as it is all about beer there. Second, I love Dublin however as the other fellow said, not much of a selection of beers there, but the pubs are great if you drink stout. Put Brussels on the list in it's place, or maybe Ghent.
cantrollmyrs's picture
Why would you not list Grand Rapids Michigan? They have Bells, Founders, New Holland, Perrin just to to name a few. They have more breweries than even the likes of Chicago and a per capita brewery seen that is probably the highest in the country.

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