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Best Cities and States for Beer Lovers

March 11, 2013
Personal Finance
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It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, and in the U.S., we often celebrate this holiday with beer.  NerdWallet analyzed the data to find the best cities and states for beer lovers.

To find the best states for beer lovers, we looked at two criteria:

  1. Are there plenty of beer options available?  For beer connoisseurs, it’s imperative to have plenty of local microbreweries so that you can change it up with seasonal and collaboration brews.  We included the number of breweries per state in our calculation.
  2. Will you have drinking buddies?  To assess if there is a culture of beer appreciation in the state, we included the per capita beer consumption for residents of the state.

For more information, check out our Cost of Living Calculator and City Life tool.

Top Ten States for Beer Lovers

Rank State Number of breweries Annual beer consumption per person (in gallons) Overall score for beer lovers
1 California 268 18.0 64.6
2 New Hampshire 17 31.9 52.8
3 Montana 32 29.8 50.3
4 Colorado 130 22.2 49.3
5 Wisconsin 75 26.2 49.3
6 Oregon 124 22.2 48.4
7 North Dakota 2 30.6 46.7
8 Pennsylvania 93 21.5 40.6
9 Washington 136 18.2 40.4
10 Texas 59 23.7 39.8

NerdWallet also took a closer look at the best cities for beer lovers, examining which cities have high-quality beer.  For the 250 top-rated beers on Beer Advocate, we looked at where the top 50 breweries were located and found that they were clustered around four main cities.

Top Cities for Beer Lovers

 1.    San Diego, CA

San Diego boasts a whopping seven top-rated breweries located in or around the city. For those who prefer ales, try the Duck Duck Gooze (ranked #37 on Beer Advocate) or the Cable Car at The Lost Abbey. For IPAs, check out the Sculpin IPA at Ballast Point Brewing Company, the Ruination IPA at Stone Brewing Company or Alpine Beer Company’s Nelson. Classic stout aficionados may enjoy the Speedyway Stout from AleSmith Brewing Company or Port Brewing Company’s Older Viscosity.

2.    San Francisco, CA

There are six top-rated breweries located near San Francisco, a hub for microbreweries. The Bay Area is home to Russian River Brewing Company, one of the nation’s best breweries. Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder take the No. 2 and No. 3 spot on Beer Advocate’s top beers list. San Franciscans are all too familiar with the classic Lagunitas Brewing Company, a staple in the city, but some may be unaware of the other nearby award-winning breweries. Some of the nation’s best IPA’s are from the San Francisco area, including Bear Republic Brewing Company’s Hop Rod Rye and the Union Jack IPA from Firestone Walker Brewing Company. Stouts abound in San Francisco — FiftyFifty’s Imperial Eclipse Stout and North Coast’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout make the list as well.

3.    Portland, OR

Portland has four top-rated nearby breweries, including Hair of the Dog, which had four beers that made the top 250. A variety of beers abound in Portland — three ales from Cascade Brewing made the list, as well as two stouts from Deschutes Brewing Company and an English barleywine from Pelican Pub and Brewery. In terms of variety, Portland has more microbreweries than any city in the world.

4.    Montpelier, VT

The breweries located near Montpelier make the Beer Advocate’s list; in fact, the No. 1 spot goes to the Heady Topper from The Alchemist, located in Waterbury, VT. Hill Farmstead Brewery has a grand total of eleven different beers on the Beer Advocate’s list of the top 250 beers, and Lawson’s Finest Liquors clocks in at No. 28 with their Double Sunshine IPA.

Other notable cities

Other cities with notable breweries include Boston (Boston Beer Company and Jack’s Abby Brewing), Chicago (Three Floyds Brewing Company and Goose Island Brewing Company), Cleveland (Fat Heads Brewery and Great Lakes Brewing Company) and Minneapolis (Surly Brewing Company and Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery).


The overall score for beer lovers was derived from the following measures:

  1. Breweries per state from the Brewers Association
  2. Beer consumption per capita from the Beer Institute

Information regarding breweries with top-rated beers was obtained from Beer Advocate.