US Cities With The Best Beer

The brewery mecca here in the US is quite infinite, as more beer drinkers are dipping their "curious" toes into craft brews that challenge the watered-down Coors Light. From West Coast IPAs to fruit-forward sours that curl the tongue, there seems to be a beer for everyone. According to Vine Pair and the most recent count in 2021, there's a total of 9,000 operating breweries in the US. This is projected to incrementally rise in 2022, which means that the competition will continue its wild trajectory, calling for greater innovation, creativity, and experimentation. 

However, if you ask modern-day beer connoisseurs what defines a killer beer, it's sticking to refined, classic recipes using the best, locally-sourced ingredients — not gimmicky additives, like Fruit Loops that should frankly remain in a bowl of cereal (per Wine Enthusiast). The best beers are also born out of small mom-and-pop breweries that will continue honing their small-batch craft, versus monstrous corporations with a goal of accelerating production and profit. Needless to say, it isn't insoluble to find cities in the US that are quite literally "hopping" with beer that leaves a lasting impression. Here is our roundup of the US cities with the best beer.

San Diego, CA

From grabbing fresh carne asada street tacos and watching the serene surf in Pacific Beach to all-day beer tastings at microbreweries in North Park, San Diego is hopping with highly decorated brews that bubble with nuanced flavor. According to Travel+Leisure, San Diego is home to over 100 breweries, all dedicated to utilizing sustainable ingredients and progressive flavor combos that make it a proliferating brewery empire. 

One of the first mega breweries to lay the groundwork for San Diego's beer scene was Karl Strauss' Old Columbia Brewery & Grill in 1989. Since then, household names like Ballast Point Brewing, known for its distinctive Watermelon Dorado and Modern Times Beer, have flourished. Stone Brewing accelerated the beer revolution and was one of the first to take a stab at the West Coast style IPA. Meanwhile, if you're craving something a bit more unfiltered and robust, Pure Project is the king of murky IPAs, injected with hops that'll send you to the clouds and back. San Diego also fosters women in the craft beer scene, according to San Diego Magazine. Female brewers with a chemical engineering background, such as Sam Olson at Mujeres Brew House, are paving the way for brewery innovation. It's no wonder why San Diego is one of the top bustling beer cities in the US.

Anaheim, CA

Along with touring the happiest place on earth, Disneyland, Anaheim's vibrant culture also revolves around craft beer, known for its one-of-a-kind innovation. It's a guarantee that you'll find a juicy, tropical American IPA at Bottle Logic Brewing, a favorite local watering hole. Golden Road Brewing is another brewery that revolves around the California dream, with branding that encompasses billowing palm trees, crashing waves, salty air, and big surf. You'll definitely want to taste test Mango Cart — a refreshing light Wheat Ale that pays homage to Los Angeles fruit vendors, bursting with bright citrus and mango. 

Unsung Brewing Co. is an award-winning, superhero-themed brewery, specializing in heroic IPAs like Carina — a juicy Hazy IPA made and Janky Fett — an eclectic West Coast IPA. Lastly, you can't leave Anaheim without sipping on Slap & Tickle, a West Coast IPA, at Brewery X — a CCBC Gold winner described as a bold, hoppy, pine-forward brew that epitomizes the progressive beer scene in Anaheim.

San Francisco, CA

Like most California cities, it's highly likely you'll always be able to indulge in a phenomenal beer amidst a sliver of sunshine in San Francisco. It's even better when you get crystal clear views of the majestic Golden Gate Bridge. It's no secret that San Francisco isn't afraid to experiment with craft beer, as the original American craft brewery Anchor Brewing Co. was forged in 1896, birthing Anchor Steam, a bright, crisp lager, cooled down by the chilly San Francisco night air. The Golden City seems to carry on the tradition of innovation, with independent breweries crafting milkshake IPAs to smoky pilsners. Breweries like Cellarmaker are known for their double milkshake IPA infused with Madagascar vanilla, strawberry, and organic marshmallow cream. Fort Point made headlines with a light and crisp Kölsch style ale called KSA — an intentional mixture of American bittering hops and distinct German malts.

According to East Bay Express, San Francisco is paying closer attention to impassioned beer drinkers and slowly bringing back West Coast IPAs. This is in addition to continuing to work with lactose and fruit to meet the demand for smoothie beers. Overall, San Francisco is mapped with next-level breweries that promise to deliver excellent, well-executed brews.

Portland, OR

Simply put, Portland put micro brewers on the map way back in 1980, when there was a monumental movement to veer away from corporate brews. According to Serious Eats, this quirky city buzzing with eccentric art and hippy restaurants continues to remain a lively incubator for craft beer, actually creating the trends. It's a type of immersive culture that's quite literally infiltrated the city. Even if you're at an ordinary bike stop, you can find a mind-blowing IPA. 

There are well over 70+ craft breweries in Portland, and frankly, not enough time in the day to experience and appreciate all of them. Upright Brewing takes inspiration from the great musician Charles Mingus, injecting that type of spirit into its small-batch Saisons and complex, farmhouse-style ales. The famous brewery Deschutes sells over 225,000 barrels of its brew across the US, specializing in a bold Black Butte Porter. In the mood for a thirst-quenching sour? Cascade Brewing Barrel House spurred the sour revolution, developing the Northwest Sour Ale. You can easily explore over 28 taps at any given time here. It's safe to say, you'll never experience a dull, craft beer moment in Portland.

Seattle, WA

When it comes to the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is known to be this hybrid epicenter of business professionals and large conglomerate companies enmeshed with artists and eccentric minds. You can certainly find endless, top-rated restaurants and breweries within seconds. Based on the latest count via the New York Times, there were about 70 breweries in Seattle as of 2021. Near the urban high-rises, you can easily access a booming plot of breweries in an area now known as the Ballard District. It is lined with 11 craft breweries in a one-mile radius. 

If you're visiting Seattle, you should definitely put Stoup Brewing on your list — home of the famous Citra IPA with notes of tropical fruit and citrus. Georgetown Beer carries an all-around incredible suite of pale ales, pilsners, and porters. Lastly, if you're down to boogie, take a trek to Fremont and try Disco Wolf — a fruit-forward double IPA with notes of mango, pineapple, orange, and melon, also decorated with 2021 Sip Magazine Best of the NW. With so many breweries to choose from, don't be shocked if you feel your own version of "Sleepless in Seattle."

Chicago, IL

Thinking about sipping on a cold brew in the Windy City? You're in the right place. The Chicago beer scene started in 1855 with the Chicago Lager Riot, according to The Magnificent Mile, and after the dust settled, new laws were put into place that enabled local breweries to start pouring. Now, in a span of a few miles, you'll have access to over 200 breweries, touting full-bodied stouts and cutting-edge IPAs that make a lasting palette impression. 

If you're feeling bold, try Goose Island Bourbon County Classic Cola Stout — a cola, barrel-aged play on the traditional stout, with gentle whispers of citrus, spice, and sweet vanilla. If you're feeling like a dynamic India Pale Ale to slug down with your Chicago-style, thick crust pizza, Anti-Hero by Revolution Brewing is a Chicago favorite — it melds citrus, pine, and floral notes together for a refreshing afternoon delight. You also don't want to miss out on the Half Acre Beer Company, best known for Tome — a hazy IPA that yields a delightfully sweet and creamy twist that is arguably the best in the city.

Asheville, NC

When you think of Asheville, visions of architectural masterpieces, edgy restaurants, and boutique art galleries might appear. In this eccentric city, you'll surely find an impeccable meal and good beer. According to Explore Asheville, there are more breweries per capita here than anywhere in the US, and it was named the Beer City USA in 2009. 

If you're ready to embrace a flavor explosion, head over to Burial Beer Co. for an Imperial Cream Ale, described as "golden milk" with notes of spicy cinnamon, vanilla bean, and bananas. Craving more variation? Then Wicked Weed Brewing is your best bet, with over 25 unique draft beers available, including West Coast style IPAs and barrel-aged sour ales, like Black Angel. If the name sounds enticing, the process will, too. This elixir stews in bourbon barrels with tart Michigan Montmorency cherries and then rests for 9 months, which gives it that "wickedly" good flavor. There's a slew of other breweries, like Wedge and Highland Brewing, that also deserve an honorable mention. Regardless, you won't be disappointed in Asheville.

Denver, CO

Based on Uncover Colorado stats, Denver knows how to go big or go home when it comes to beer, housing the Great American Beer Festival and over 350 operating breweries. When you're in the "Mile High City" and relishing the vibrant downtown sites, you'll surely find a great brew that speaks to your beer-yearning soul. If you want to tap into Denver's historical brewery roots, head to Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver's very first brewpub that produces over 4,000 barrels of crisp beers annually. You'll want to check out the Rail Yard Ale, an amber beer with a pleasant malty finish. 

Great Divide is another local favorite, specializing in distinctive ales like the Titan IPA that unites citrus, pine, and stone fruits to formulate an easy-to-drink brew. You'll also want to pay a visit to Odell Brewing, which has been around the block since 1989. Odell is considered to be one of the first heavy hitters in Denver, situated in a hip district called the RiNo. If Hazy IPAs are your jam, you're in for a fruity treat with Hazer Tag — noted as a galactic, passion fruit adventure. Without a doubt, Denver is a city that welcomes innovation when it comes to great beer.

Boston, MA

Boston is no newborn when it comes to the world of craft beer. In fact, since 1980, the city has been forging the way for American breweries, starting with the inception of Harpoon Brewery and the Boston Beer Company. Now, there are over 200 commercial breweries in Boston, all offering an array of satiating beers, from juicy Hazys to New England-style varieties. 

You certainly cannot miss the widely recognized Samuel Adams Brewery that first began production back in 1984 with a tried-and-true family recipe. In full-force Boston spirit, you can opt for the Boston Lager, noted as a full-bodied, complex brew that is well-loved by everyone. Democracy Brewing is a must-visit as well, crafting a wide variety of hoppy beers, including the Consummate Rioter — an American-style IPA that effortlessly bonds together hops and malts. Lastly, you can't miss Aeronaut Cannery & Taproom, best known for "Robot Crush," an award-winning American Pilsner.

Austin, TX

Known as the weirdest, best kept hidden gem in the US, Austin exudes a wild, colorful culture that's mostly built on hip music, brunch with DJs, top-notch BBQ, and of course, killer brews. The proliferation of breweries started back in 1992 with Celis Brewing, and from there, the Austin brew culture formed at an accelerated pace. Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company is widely recognized by The Great American Beer Festival and a great hang-out spot to chill with pups while indulging in a slice of pizza. A must-drink here is "Hell Yes," an elegant Bavarian-style lager that won the 2018 GABF Gold medal. Zilker Brewing is one of the best on the block, known for its Coffee Milk Stout, concocted with fresh chocolate and coffee malt. Austin Beerworks is a quintessential stop as well, with a year-round Blood Orange IPA infused with Sicilian blood oranges, making it a bonafide citrus dream.

Philadelphia, PA

The artful illustration of indulging in savory Philly cheesesteaks while sipping on a cold beer is a true summertime sensorial experience. Philadelphia is known for its impassioned craft beer scene, always securing awards at the Great American Beer Festival. Dock Street Brewery was the first-ever microbrewery to lay down roots in Philly, known for its 35-year old Czech-style Pilsner. Dock Street's Man of Full Trouble Brown Porter was a 2021 GABF award winner, likely due to its creamy espresso flavor, reminiscent of a true Old World London Style Porter. 

2nd Story is another Philly-based brewery that incorporates tried-and-true ingredients, such as barley and hops, but is not afraid to play with "not so conventional" ingredients as well. Its flagship product is Declaration IPA, made with five varieties of American hops, including Warrior, Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo, and Simcoe. Attic Brewing also touts a GABF Silver Medal winner called Unresolved — a potent German lager with a smooth malty character that's bold, yet light in color. Be prepared to experience a beer awakening in Philadelphia!

Cleveland, OH

Cleveland's deep-seated beer history goes back all the way to 1852. According to The Wildlife Society, Gehring Brewery opened its doors around that time — first serving German lagers, as it was owned by German immigrant Carl Gehring. By the 1900s, a total of 23 breweries lined the city streets. Fast forward to today, and you'll most definitely find a melting pot of every beer style in Cleveland, from hoppy IPAs to pale ales. 

Great Lakes Brewing Company was started in 1986 by two Irish-American brothers, and to this day, every beer is a reflection of their European travels. The Dortmunder Gold Lager is an award-winning classic, combining sweet malt and dry hops, recognized as a "hometown hero." Another up-and-coming must-try brewery is Bookhouse Brewing, a cozy, historic taproom with several eclectic, New England-style brews to choose from, such as Whoops! Juicy IPA, made with nü-skool American hops and malted and flaked oats. If you're open to trying over 40 different Cleveland beers, you'll definitely want to consider signing up for Cleveland Brewery Passport, a downloadable guide for your phone that gives you a chance to score discounts and prizes as you "check in" to each participating brewery. It's the ultimate opportunity to taste test all of the best beers Cleveland has to offer.

Minneapolis, MN

Not only is it a guarantee that you'll experience a warm, "Minnesota Nice" welcome, but you'll also be greeted with a buzzing selection of craft beers that reflect the Midwest work ethic and innovative culture. If you're on the hunt for good beer, Surly Brewing is the spot for you. You can even score a fresh slice of New Haven-style craft pizza. You can't leave Surly without trying Furious IPA — unlike any other IPA out there. It's hoppy and citrus-forward with a subtle caramel backbone. 

Dangerous Man Brewing is focused on delivering small-batch production beers, reflecting Minneapolis's nature, art, and culture. If you're a porter fan, you'll savor every sip of the Ancestral Soul Baltic Porter. It's discerned as a velvety beer with notes of dark cacao and coffee — a Polish recipe that can't be replicated. Another must-try Minneapolis beer that won bronze at the 2021 Great American Beer Festival is "Stranger in the Alps," by Fair State Brewing Cooperative. It's safe to assume you'll never experience a bad beer moment in Minneapolis.

New York, NY

When trekking "The Big Apple" streets alive with global-inspired restaurants, music, and culture, you'll surely find seasoned craft beer that's enveloped with flavor. According to the JFK International Air Terminal blog, New York City's beer culture is sort of an extension to the farm-to-table movement, with well over 40 operating breweries. You'll also find that New York city beers are crafted with international influence, as many transplants are running them. 

Torst Bar in Brooklyn is owned by Danish gypsy brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, a well-known thought leader in the beer scene. At Torst, you can experience 21 draft lines featuring the most prolific craft beer on a global scale. You can also try the most historic Cream Stock Ale in the city at McSorley's — a historic Irish bar with a laid-back atmosphere that never seems to change. If you're in the mood for something a bit more progressive like a sour, you can hop over to Torch & Crown Brewing Company, a large-scale brewery serving a cold one for just about every beer drinker.

Grand Rapids, MI

When you're in a family vacation hot spot with a plethora of nature activities, historic sites, and museums, it certainly makes sense to explore the beer scene in Grand Rapids, also known as "Furniture City." According to Pure Michigan, this popular getaway destination is actually nicknamed Beer City USA, promoting small-scale brewing operations. You'll also have easy access to beer tours, hotel beer packages, and a Beer City Brewsader Passport.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the largest, most widely known brewery is Founders Brewing Co, recognized for its cinnamon-colored Breakfast Stout, made with bittered and imported chocolate. You can also grab Belgian and Fresh style beers at Brewery Vivant. The Grand Lager is labeled as a "European beer for everyone" that's specifically crisp and bright. It's also worth checking out CityBuilt Brewing Company. According to Wood TV, it's one of the top three brewpubs and famously recognized for "Prague Underground," an herb-forward, spicy Pilsner that won Best Beer Label.

Burlington, VT

Burlington is always swirling with romance — whether it's enjoying a serene lakefront park walk or embarking on an eclectic culinary adventure, this city is as charming as it gets. According to Seven Days, "The Queen City" is also a prime location to grab a fresh craft beer because of its proximity to the lake — an ideal trade community for high-quality ingredients and the fostering of farming activity, also promoting high-quality beer. 

If you're looking to experience a vast range of artisanal, craft beers, Foam Brewers is a hidden gem with views of Lake Champlain, best known for its flavor-forward IPAs. "Unreal is Here" is a 9.2% Double IPA brewed and dry-hopped with whole-cone Champlain Valley Farm Centennial. Burlington Beer Co. is one of the most popular breweries and creates up to 75 different types of beer every year. Its flagship Double IPA is "It's Complicated Being a Wizard," concocted with Barley, Wheat Malt, and Flaked Oats, also radiating with orange zest notes. If you're ready to experience true "farm-to-brewery" culture, Burlington is the place to be.

Milwaukee, WI

If you're planning a trip to Milwaukee anytime soon, you can expect an energetic nightlife scene, major league baseball, foodie festivals, frozen custard, cheese curds, and of course, an array of notable craft beer. It's also famously home to the Miller brewery, and several micro and macro breweries that supply the endless day-drinking activities in Milwaukee. Lakefront Brewery started in 1987 and was one of the first certified organic breweries in America. Its Black Friday Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout won the Winter Grand Champion for Whiskey Aged Porter/Stout at USBTC 2019 Winter Competition. Eastside Dark, a rich Bavarian dark lager, also secured a silver medal at the 2020 Brussels Beer Challenge. 

If you're a fan of sours, then MobCraft Beer Low pHunk Sour Ale is a must-try, winning a gold at the Great American Beer Festival. As you can see, there's no shortage of beer accolades in Milwaukee!