In doing this I haven’t really given any thought to what constitutes a ‘craft beer city’ other than the general, overall availability of craft beer in that city. Some are clearly the home of numerous breweries, others have craft beer available throughout its bars and pubs, and some are massive supporters of the craft beer scene with beer events and festivals.
One thing to note – they are my favourites because I have been to them. For instance I know Denver, Colorado is considered a fantastic craft beer city…but I haven’t been (yet!) so it can’t be on my list.
Enough already…I now give you my top 10 favourite craft beer cities…
10. Boston, Massachusetts (USA)
Maybe it’s the presence of Harvard and MIT, or even their Irish roots, but Boston just seems to have a lot of pubs (Cheers anyone?) and craft beer is extensively available in them. Perhaps it’s due to local brewers Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams) or Harpoon or simply because Boston is the main city of the New England region; where craft beer is as common as lobster. And that can’t be a bad thing.
9. Munich, Germany
Yes, okay. German beer is not traditionally considered Craft Beer but if we look at some definitions of craft beer we’ll see ‘quality’ and ‘hand made’ mentioned. There are a number of corporate breweries in Germany today; however Germany is responsible for the creation of a number of beer styles; many of which are still made by small, independent breweries today. Besides, any city that hosts Oktoberfest is obviously pretty serious about beer!
8. Prague, Czech Republic
Like Munich, Prague is very much a beer drinker’s city with cafes and bars lining nearly every street. No wonder there are numerous Beer Walking Tours available for visitors to do. The inventors of the pilsner, Prague combines rustic bars with microbreweries; many of which opened hundreds of years ago. There are also a number of brewpubs and restaurants in the city centre that brew their own beer for your beer drinking pleasure.
7. Seattle, Washington (USA)
One of two entries from the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is home to Starbucks, Superbowl champs the Seahawks, a lot of rain and the Landis family. Nearby Yakima Valley grows three quarters of hops available in the US; meaning the area is ideal for craft breweries to call home (35 of them in fact). Pike Brewery, Elysian Brewing Company and Redhook were amongst my favourites.
6. London, England
London’s pub scene alone should see the city ranked highly when it comes to beer; however small breweries have recently popped up all over the city including Camden Town Brewery, Meantime and Beavertown, as well as a noticeably wider selection of beers in pubs. I also recently heard that London now has more breweries than any other city in the world; however that claim seem unconfirmed. London also hosts the annual Great British Beer Festival to celebrate craft beer and ‘real ale’. Once again Mrs Sweeney, I’m sorry I accidentally smashed our commemorative glass…
5. Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne without doubt leads the way in Australia in terms of the craft beer scene. The city and its surrounds are home to the most craft breweries in Australia and of course the city hosts the massive Good Beer Week and Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular. But it’s also the small one off events that Melbourne attracts; such as this year’s Stone Brewing tap takeover at the Local Taphouse. With dedicated craft beer bars popping up around the city – especially the inner northern suburbs, Melbourne is fast developing a reputation as Australia’s craft beer hotspot. All this despite being the home of brewing giant Carlton United Breweries (Fosters)!
4. Brussels, Belgium
Chocolate, mussels and beer. Yep, that’s Brussels. And boy, there’s a lot of it. The breweries itself may be spread throughout Belgium and Antwerp probably has the biggest beer festival, but Brussels as the largest city in Belgium (and the Capital city of the European Union) just drowns itself in good beer. There’s the infamous Cantillon Brewery in the city, Delirium Café, numerous bars dedicated to lambics and geuze and an amazing history of brewing. Go take a bite…
3. Wellington, New Zealand
I’m not sure I appreciated the full awesomeness of the craft beer scene in Wellington until the wife and I went for a visit in 2013. We were shocked. A city of roughly 400,000 that looks like San Francisco crossed with Hobart, the craft beer buzz in the city is hard to ignore. Dubbed the ‘Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand’ it's home to heaps of breweries - Garage Project, ParrotDog, Black Dog, Tuatura and Yeastie Boys, plus literally dozens of bars without a drop of corporate lager being sold. There’s even an official craft beer map to help you find them all. And of course there’s Beervana…one of the biggest craft beer festivals around. Oh that’s right…that’s where we are going tomorrow…to Beervana!
2. San Diego, California (USA)
Sunny San Diego. What a glorious city for craft beer. Whilst most of America’s hops are grown in the far north west corner of the country; the majority of them must be harvested and sent down to San Diego in the far south west corner. It’s a city where Pale Ales and IPAs rule and home to some of the best breweries in the world; meaning that you don’t have to go far to find amazing beer on tap. We’re talking Stone Brewing, Green Flash, Ballast Point, Mission, Lost Abbey, Karl Straus, Coronado, AleSmith…! Deep breath Todd, deep breath. Getting to them all is also easy with craft beer dedicated tour groups like Brew Hop ready to take you around. Plus there’s the annual ‘Beer Week’ festival. Just don’t drink ALL the good beer and fall over and hurt your arm like my wife did. That would be pretty silly…
And drum roll please…coming in at #1…
1. Portland, Oregon (USA)
Yep, Portland. That took all of 3 seconds to decide! Portland is the ultimate beer city and is recognised as such. The city has dubbed itself ‘Beervana’ and ‘Brewtopia’ in the past and a previous mayor officially called it ‘Beertown’. The name doesn’t really matter. What does is the fact it’s considered the birthplace of craft beer and is home to over 50 breweries; many of which you can walk/tram to in the city. I’m not sure we even went to a regular pub in Portland. Why bother when you can visit Rogue, BridgePort, Deschutes, Widmer Brothers, Hair of the Dog, Cascade (the house of sours!) and so on. Nothing else needs to be said. Portland IS the best craft beer city I’ve been to in the world.
That’s it folks!
Before I leave you; a couple of apologies. The following cities are fantastic craft beer locations for one reason or another and just missed out on my top 10…and they are:
· Portland, Maine
· Perth, Australia
· San Francisco, California
· Hanoi, Vietnam
· Edinburgh, Scotland
· Tokyo, Japan
And with that I leave you until next time!