America's Best Beer Cities
David L. Moore - OR / Alamy
Self-proclaimed “beer nerd” Lynn Stachnick loves to visit Portland, ME, to sample the local craft brews. She and her husband even have a beer city bucket list, with San Diego near the top.
“Ballast Point Brewing has an India Pale Lager I’ve read about and most likely will never find in the Northeast,” says the Massachusetts-based brand manager. “What would be greater than drinking beer, going to the beach, and eating fish tacos in between?”
Travel + Leisure readers would drink to that. Both Portland and San Diego placed among America’s top 10 microbrew destinations, according to the America’s Favorite Cities survey. Readers rated 35 major cities for features such as food trucks, friendly locals, and microbrews, a category that reflects a growing trend. As of 2012, there were more than 2,300 operating craft breweries (those making fewer than 6 million barrels a year) in the U.S., according to the American Brewers Association—the highest number since the late 19th century.
Across the best beer cities, we found plenty of brewery tours, hop-infused festivals, and brewpubs catering to local tastes, from lower-gluten brews in Denver to caffeinated beer in San Francisco—one of the top three beer destinations recommended by Tom Acitelli, author of The Audacity of Hops. (His other favorites, Asheville, NC, and Vermont, were out of the running in our big-city-focused survey.)
Hotels in these cities are increasingly catering to beer lovers, too. In San Diego—where the local craft beer industry now contributes more to the economy than its famed Comic-Con convention—the Hotel Solamar has started craft beer happy hours. And in No. 1 beer city Portland, OR, the Hotel Jupiter offers a package that sets guests up with a loaner bike and a guide to nearby breweries and micropubs.
The Stachnicks might be game for that. Before tackling San Diego, Lynn and her husband are heading to the Pacific Northwest to sample the region’s beers.
“You learn about the art of beer by visiting the breweries and speaking with the people who make it happen,” she says. “I’m a firm believer that the best way to travel is to live and breathe as the locals do.”