It’s a great time to be a beer lover — especially if you’re living in or plan on visiting the U.S. any time soon. Stretched across the land of the free, more and more craft breweries are popping up, leading to a new wave of ales, sours, lagers, and lambics. But with so many brewers to choose from, the question remains: where does one even begin? To help point you in the right direction, we’ve highlighted the country’s finest cities for craft beer.
Asheville, North Carolina
Over the last decade, Asheville has established itself as one of the country’s meccas for craft beer enthusiasts. When visitors arrive in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, they’ll have their pick of delicious product, as over 20 craft breweries can be found here. Many of the city’s best offerings are located in the South Slope neighborhood (also known as the “Brewery District”), an old industrial pocket of town that’s been on the rise as of late. For a historic stop on your beer crawl, check out Highland (and their juicy IPAs) or Green Man (who have their own selection of hoppy ales). Both establishments were founded in the mid-90s, and have been pioneers when it comes to Asheville’s impressive ascent up the craft beer rankings. Other favorites include Burial Beer, Catawba, and the eponymous Asheville Brewing Company, which offers pizza and $3 movie viewings in addition to their lengthy tap list. Just don’t be surprised if there’s a new spot in town by the time you arrive.
In a way, Cincinnati is a city built on beer. You heard that right — back in the 1800s, a flood of German immigrants landed here, bringing with them their dearest drink. These days, Cincinatians still adore their ancestors’ treasured beverage (outside of Munich, the world’s largest Oktoberfest takes place here), and you’ll continue to find German-style brews around the city. What’s more, there are now a ton of microbreweries and draft houses that make Cincy a go-to spot for craft beer lovers. With all this in mind, there’s no better starting point for your tasting tour than Moerlein Brewing, where you’ll find a slew of taps paying homage to the city’s past. Located in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Rhinegeist is another historic establishment where you can also find a more modern list of beers like sours and stouts (not to mention a rooftop patio), while Taft’s Ale House has converted an old church into a public house that prepares a delicious chocolate porter and a funky key lime ale. And if you’re looking for an extra adventure, take a quick trip across the Ohio River and check out Braxton Brewing Company, which operates out of Covington, Kentucky — proof that Cincinnati’s beer scene just keeps growing!
The Mile High City is no stranger to craft beer, a fact that is on full display during the Great American Beer Festival every fall. Denver-based brewers draw inspiration from a mishmas of sources, which is why you’ll find operations like Jagged Mountain and Wynkoop, both known for their innovative and nonconforming brews (see Wynkoop’s oyster-infused stout, for instance). You’ll also notice that “competitors” like these aren’t afraid to collaborate, which leads to some incredibly tasty pints, such as a Japanese-inspired saison from Jagged Mountain. Other local staples include the aptly named Great Divide and Woods Boss Brewing — the latter boasting a 24-tap tasting room stocked with much more than their own beers. Click here for a full list into Denver’s craft offerings.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Winner of the “Beer City USA” award back in 2017, Grand Rapids is officially a can’t-miss destination for those in pursuit of the country’s best craft beer. The city is located just two hours east of Detroit, on the banks of the scenic Grand River, and those crazed for a cold one won’t have to look far upon arrival. In between stops at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and the Grand Rapids Art Museum, pull up a seat at Founders Brewing Co. or Brewery Vivant. These city staples pour a variety of pints and also offer weekly tours for visitors hoping to view their creative process. Another locale you’ll want to frequent belongs to Mitten Brewing Co., whose baseball-themed branding is a huge hit among locals, as is the Peanuts and Crackerjack Porter. City Built boasts a roster of small-batch artisan blends, with creations such as a green tea chamomile pale ale. And if you want to take a few of your favorite finds home, check out Siciliano’s Market — one of the largest beer retailers in the country.
Maine’s coolest coastal city has quickly joined the conversation as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to American craft beer. For such a tiny municipality, it boasts an impressive number of microbreweries, plus a number of watering holes that proudly sell their neighbor’s tasty labors. These locales come in all shapes and sizes, and include the sorts of nautically themed names that you might expect in a place like Portland, such as Mast Landing and Rising Tide (the latter also offers hosts a different food truck each day). Austin Street Brewery is another spot you won’t want to miss here, and Allagash brews a mean witbier that never seems to go out of style. Just like the ocean, a pint of craft beer is never far off in Portland.
San Diego, California
Beers and beaches — two things San Diego has a lot of. With long stretches of sandy shoreline and more than 150 breweries across the county, the city is known as the “Craft Beer Capital of America,” and it’s almost impossible not to step into at least one tap room during a trip to this southern California oasis. Here, you’ll find a sunny mix of well-established companies, such as Modern Times Beer, Stone Brewing, and Karl Strauss Brewing. While all of their products can be found far and wide, the city still has some true-to-their-roots neighborhood hangouts like Green Flash. But that’s not all, as we recommend checking out AleSmith (two-time reigning champ of the San Diego International Beer Festival) and sipping on their flavorful Anvil ESB. Also consider making a stop at Viewpoint, where the scenic patio and refreshing pale ale perfectly encapsulate the warm, easy-going (and hoppy) culture of San Diego. Cheers!
Beer bars are popping up in Seattle like spring flowers — and it’s a beautiful sight to see. While exploring Seattle’s beer scene, you’ll be treated to the famous West Coast hops, whose bitter, citrus-infused, and fruity flavors characterize your favorite IPAs. But no matter what your palette prefers, finding a refreshing pint won’t be hard in the Emerald City. Stroll through the different neighborhoods like Ballard (home to Stoup and a dozen other breweries) and Capitol Hill (where you’ll find Optimism Brewing Co.), or head to the city center, where there are plenty of refreshing tap rooms to explore, like Cloudburst and Old Stove. And finally, you can’t forget about Floating Bridge down in the University District. Isn’t spring just the prettiest season?
Where’s your go-to hangout for a tasty craft beer? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to drink responsibly!