2022’s Best Cities for Beer Lovers

Whether you enjoy IPAs, stouts, or lagers, few things are better than grabbing a beer with your pals. Fortunately, 2021 was a record-breaking year for the number of breweries in the U.S.

So, where should you go to toast prost with your friends?

To find out, Lawn Love ranked over 180 of the largest U.S. cities to determine 2022’s Best Cities for Beer Lovers.

We sought out cities with plenty of breweries, beer gardens, and pubs per square mile, as well as award-winning brews, affordable pints, beer-centered festivals, and a big beer-loving community.

Drink up this Oktoberfest with our ranking and analysis below.

In this article

City rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

Infographic showing the Best Cities for Beer Lovers, a ranking based on breweries, beer gardens, and pubs per square mile, affordability, community, and more
Note: For presentation purposes, not all ties for some metrics may be displayed in the above infographic.

The upshot

Wish you were beer

Raise your glass to the Pacific Northwest and to our top beer city, Seattle. The PNW dominates our ranking thanks to acclaimed ales, numerous drinking establishments, and a big beer-consuming community.

Emerald City brings home the gold overall and in Beer Quality. Portland (aka “Beervana”) bubbles to No. 3 overall — apt for the Microbrewery Capital of the World.

Both cities boast several winning brews recently recognized in the International Beer Awards, Great American Beer Festival, and World Beer Cup.

Local tips:

Crafty capital cities

Colorado’s capital, Denver (No. 2), foams to the top of our ranking with several globally renowned brews. Beer mavens can easily imbibe at one of Mile High City’s many breweries, pubs, bars, or festivals.

The “Napa Valley of Beer” continues in nearby Fort Collins (No. 30). Locally hailed as the Craft Beer Capital of Colorado, this college town impresses with plenty of craft breweries per square mile (No. 9) and accounts for 70% of the total craft beer produced in the Centennial State.

Quench your thirst in the Lone Star State’s capital, Austin (No. 8), where several breweries, such as Lazarus Brewing Co. and Jester King Brewery, won gold in the 2022 World Beer Cup.

Local tips:

Coast-to-coast consumption

Taps are flowing along the Pacific, where six of our top 10 cities are located.

South of the PNW, California cities like San Francisco (No. 4) and the self-proclaimed Craft Beer Capital of America, San Diego (No. 5), stand out for Beer Quality and Community.

San Fran secures first place in Access, boasting the most craft breweries per square mile, alongside a significant number of beer gardens, pubs, and bars. It’s no wonder the city drank its way to fifth place in average annual beer consumption.

Meanwhile, Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 6), and New York City (No. 9) are our East Coast drinking destinations. The Big Apple boasts plenty of beer tours, and both cities outnumber the competition in beer festivals and events.

Local tips:

Draught drought

BYOB in small Texas cities Brownsville and Laredo, which sank to the very bottom of our ranking. With low scores across the board, they join Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Newark, New Jersey, at the bottom of the barrel.

New Jersey has built a reputation as a buzzkill, limiting craft breweries from selling certain foods, hosting trivia nights, happy hours, and live music, or even inviting food trucks to the premises. Despite this, Jersey City managed to pull ahead at No. 28, thanks to plenty of pubs and the most beer gardens per square mile.

Expert take

Whether you’re a brewski beginner or a crafty cicerone, there’s always something more to learn about your favorite lager. We turned to some expert beer sommeliers for perspective and wisdom. Check out their answers below.

  1. What emerging brewing trends, if any, are making a splash in the beer universe?
  2. What’s the best way to discover great beers?
  3. What types of food pair best with which types of beer?
  4. How does temperature affect taste?
  5. How does container material (glass, aluminum, etc.) affect taste?
  6. How does the water source influence the brewing process?

Ask The Experts

Dave Ketchen
Professor Harbert Eminent Scholar
Czarena Crofcheck
Instructor: Brewing Science and Technology, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment
Herbert “Bruce” Bruce, Ph.D., CDR USNR (ret)
Assistant Professor of Practice for Undergraduate Education, Food Science and Technology
Michael Smith
Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
Dave Ketchen
Professor Harbert Eminent Scholar
Auburn University

What emerging brewing trends, if any, are making a splash in the beer universe?

The word of the moment is “hyperlocal.” Customers are not satisfied to buy beers that are made in their state, they want to support local businesses in their town. The pandemic showed people the importance of supporting their neighbors’ businesses and I think that will continue.

A local brewery can become almost like a sports team in the sense that people root hard for their success.

What’s the best way to discover great beers?

Microbreweries almost all serve “flights” which consist of several small samples of different brews. Most grocery stores have a “pick six” offering where customers select six different beers and buy them as a six pack. Both are great ways to try a wide variety of offerings.

In terms of getting recommendations, I would skip the apps where people rate beers and find an individual or two who has similar preferences to you. As a side benefit, you can make new friends this way.

How does container material (glass, aluminum, etc.) affect taste?

It’s a myth that aluminum cans detract from the taste of beer. Oskar Blues Brewery – founded by Auburn University alum Dale Katechis – pioneered the craft beer move to cans in the early 2000s and these days canning is very popular among craft brewers.

Pay attention instead to when a beer was brewed – old beer loses taste.

Czarena Crofcheck
Instructor: Brewing Science and Technology, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment
University of Kentucky

What’s the best way to discover great beers?

Flights. This is a great way to try a little of several beers. Especially flights at a tap room, since the variety of beers is curated by a brewer trying to create a variety of flavors to attract the best customers.

Sometimes the brewery even has a specialty, such that there may be an interesting underlying theme to their beer list.

What types of food pair best with which types of beer?

Whatever tastes good. There are ways to match spicy to not spicy, etc. However, the exploration is the most fun.

My advice is to start with an IPA and beer cheese and a cream ale with vanilla wafers.

How does temperature affect taste?

The consumer gets to decide the best temperature for themselves. If it tastes good, you should drink it. If you want to drink it at the temperature that the brewer designed the beer for, you’ll want to pay attention to the temperature. Very cold temperatures work best with light lagers and as the beer gets darked the desired temperature can increase to 60 F for the heavy beers like Imperial Stouts, Belgian Strong Ales, Doppelbock.

How does container material (glass, aluminum, etc.) affect taste?

There was a time where beer from a can did have a metallic taste, however, today cans are designed better, and the taste isn’t affected by the can. While bottles are nostalgic and still a great way to enjoy a nice beer, cans are more recyclable, stackable, and prevent oxidation.

The best advice is to use an appropriate glass to take advantage of the look and escape of carbon dioxide.

How does the water source influence the brewing process?

Good water makes good beer. However, the composition of the water can affect the final taste of the beer. The pH and the concentration of minerals can affect the entire brewing process. A brewer that chooses to alter their water for a specific composition is considering the water to be a pivotal ingredient and the end product can be enhanced by the extra care for water conditioning.

The fun part of exploring the world of beer is that the possibilities are endless–giving brewers a unique opportunity to use the raw ingredients to create an endless list of possibilities. Exploring endless possibilities is an exciting journey.

You can choose to follow the lead of the brewer and choose the glass and temperature that matches the style, but you can also choose to enjoy their creation in any way you want.

Herbert “Bruce” Bruce, Ph.D., CDR USNR (ret)
Assistant Professor of Practice for Undergraduate Education, Food Science and Technology
Virginia Tech

What emerging brewing trends, if any, are making a splash in the beer universe?

The variety of beers that is available to the American public has exploded over the past few decades. Brewers will continue to push the boundaries to develop new flavor combinations and introduce less known styles, such as saison and gose styles.

Hops have dominated the craft brewing industry in the US, especially with the great proliferation of IPA’s. Hop growers are continuously developing new strains that produce new combinations of aromas and flavors and those are always exciting to try out.

What’s the best way to discover great beers?

I recommend tasting more and listening less. Everyone has their opinion on what makes a great beer but that is completely subjective.

Don’t pay as much attention to ratings and reviews – they can give you a sense of what to expect but not how you are going to perceive (and enjoy) the flavor combinations. Most reviews are just opinions on the style, not on how well the beer adheres to the style. So the only way to discover great beers (great, in your opinion) is to try them.

I would also recommend going through a beer tasting course so you “force” yourself to try many different styles. One I enjoyed was the book, The Complete Beer Course by Joshua Bernstein.

What types of food pair best with which types of beer?

There are many great books on this subject. Basically, you can either balance your beer and food flavors or emphasize them.

You can use the hop bitterness to balance out a level of sweetness in your foods, such as an IPA paired with a sweet bbq. You could use the subtle sweetness in a beer (for instance, Marzen) to balance the umami flavors in meats and some vegetables or to balance the flavors in very spicy foods. As a contrast, you can use the bitterness in beer to emphasize a very spicy dish (IPA’s with Cajun dishes is a great combination).

There are many similar flavors and aromas in beer that can be paired with similar foods. A citrus hop aroma can be paired with citrus fruit in a salad or as a sauce on a main dish. The roasted caramel flavors of darker beers can match well with grilled, caramelized meats or vegetables. There are lots of combinations that go well, either as a balance or a contrast.

My only suggestion is to balance the intensity of the flavors. The strong toasted flavors in a brown ale may overpower (and leave almost tasteless) similar flavors in lightly-baked products, such as garlic bread, while enhancing the flavor of such foods as fried chicken and some Mexican dishes.

A food with a very strong flavor profile, like bbq, can also overpower the subtle tastes in lighter beers, such as Helles or other light lagers. It may go great together but you are really not tasting much of the beer.

How does temperature affect taste?

The warmer the beer, the more aromatics you will get from the beer. In many cases for lighter beers, there really are not many additional aromas that will come out (there are some and it’s worth experimenting).

In darker beers and sours, there are a lot of aromas and flavors that are locked in by low temperatures.

I would encourage drinkers to allow their beers to warm up a bit and taste them. You may discover flavors emerging that you never noticed before. And many of them can enhance your enjoyment of the beer.

Now, temperature is also a way of masking a flavor that doesn’t belong in the beer. You may not notice an off-flavor such as diacetyl (a buttery, toffee flavor) in a very cold beer but that becomes noticeable (and unpleasant) when the beer warms up.

If it’s not a well-crafted beer (i.e., made true to style with no off-flavors), you may want to keep it cold.

How does container material (glass, aluminum, etc.) affect taste?

The standard tasting vessel is glass, inert and has no taste. Plus, you can see the carbonation and the color of the beer so I would recommend tasting your beers in glass, as much as possible.

The glass bottle carries some issues. Not only is it breakable and light shines through (even in the brown bottles which can cause light-struck beer which has a skunky aroma), but the crowns (bottle caps) do not seal the bottle completely and over time (and with temperature changes), the beer will pick up oxygen and you will start to get a papery, stale flavor in your beer.

But for a beer you are consuming now, I would encourage you to pour it into a glass.

The linings of beer cans have gotten very good over the last few decades so the can really doesn’t impart a great deal of flavor. And, if it is filled properly, it will not pick up oxygen and cans prevent sunlight from entering the beer, so the can is really a better storage for beer.

But as you drink from the can (and the same can be said of the bottle), you don’t get much of the aroma of the beer. What you tend to smell is the can top and that doesn’t enhance the enjoyment of the beer.

How does the water source influence the brewing process?

I can spend days on the importance of water in brewing. In fact, I do with my students. Most beers are about 95% water so it makes a difference and it is why most of the beer styles have evolved as they did.

The water should also be free of chlorine (used to sanitize the water) which can add a medicinal flavor to the beer. It is easily removed by passing your brewing water through a carbon filter.

Usually most attention is focused on the salts in the water. The local water source for Burton-on-Trent, England, is very hard water with excess calcium and magnesium ions, making it an ideal water supply for IPA’s and pale ales.

The water in Dublin, Ireland, is dominated by carbonate ions which requires the use of darker malts to maintain the proper pH of the water (think Guinness Stout).

Most brewers today start with fairly soft water (low in all ion content) and add the needed salts to match the style.

So the natural water source can play a role in what styles of beer can be created true to style. But most breweries have sources of water that are low in salts and theoretically can produce any style of beer with the appropriate additions of brewing salts.

Michael Smith
Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering
Villanova University

What emerging brewing trends, if any, are making a splash in the beer universe?

I will not speak broadly, but in the Philadelphia region, the Philly sour yeast strain first identified in Matt Farber’s Lab at the University of the Sciences is creating a splash. It’s been taxonomically classified into a different species and genus than traditional brewing yeasts.

The yeast develops lactic acid as well as ethanol, the combination works well in fruit beers. Check out Levente brewing in West Chester for some examples.

Also local, Conshohocken Brewing has made some interesting strong ales with a Norwegian Farmhouse Ale yeast.

What’s the best way to discover great beers?

Travel widely and drink the beer made in that region.

What types of food pair best with which types of beer?

This is also not my expertise, but I would try to complement flavor profiles. A delicate seafood dish? Perhaps a Belgian blonde or Witbeer. Dark roasts? How about a hoppy intense Double IPA or dark lager (a Schwarzbier). A dark chocolate dessert? Try a raspberry Russian Imperial Stout. Vanilla ice cream or creme brulee? Maybe a framboise, a raspberry Lambic.

How does temperature affect taste?

Every beer has an optimum serving temperature, and that temperature is also an individual preference. Preferences are also situational. I tend to like my beers closer to room temperature than refrigerator temperature, but after cutting the grass on a 95° day in mid-July, I want one of those 9 oz ice-cold, 32.001°F Rolling Rock ponies.

How does container material (glass, aluminum, etc.) affect taste?

I do not believe the material itself matters. It’s really the packaging technology associated with the material. In particular, it’s how much that technology allows oxygen into the beer during packing, and how much oxygen creeps in over time.

My feeling is brewers have or can have good control (for the most part) over oxygen levels in both glass bottle and aluminum canning technologies. Most beers are meant to be drunk fresh, but this depends on style and how the beer was handled through the delivery process.

New England hazy IPA’s absolutely demand to be delivered and stored cold; stouts can suffer some time at room temperature before they go south.

When a local merchant continued to display a wonderful, locally produced, oak-aged stout in the cooler, and kept out on the shelf, at room temperature, one of my favorite NE hazy IPS from a favored brewery, I stopped patronizing that merchant.

The interesting question is what happens with time.

Crown caps on glass bottles are known to allow oxygen into beer over time, aluminum cans are believed to do less so. Some beers benefit from time in the bottle: I’m running a little experiment now with Troeges Mad Elf from last year (2020) in both cans and bottles. This is a seasonal strong amber ale (10+% ) brewed with honey and cherries.

New, it is intense, fresh fruit, malty, a bit raw. Wait a year in the bottle, this turns into an elegant ripe-fruit toffee-cherry pie. But that’s in the bottle. Last year Troeges put Mad Elf in Cans and bottles. I picked up a case of both, and will see how they compare this Christmas season. Ask me again in January…

Beer by the numbers

Infographic showing the Best Cities for Beer Lovers, a ranking based on breweries, beer gardens, and pubs per square mile, affordability, community, and more
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 | Research by Sarah Bahr

Behind the ranking


Beerfests.com, BreweryDB, Distilled Spirits Council, Great American Beer Festival, Google Events, International Beer Awards, Meetup, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, North American Brewers Association, Numbeo, U.S. Census Bureau, World Beer Awards, World Beer Cup, and Yelp

Final thoughts: Willkommen, ale lovers!

Oktoberfest began in 19th-Century Germany as a wedding celebration, but this folk festival is now one of the world’s favorite excuses to imbibe and fill up on brews and bratwursts.

Don’t have a biergarten in your city? You don’t need to cross the pond to Munich to celebrate. Don a lederhosen or dirndl, and head to one of America’s beloved Oktoberfests for Bavarian bites and big steins:

Cincinnati, Ohio

Hundreds of thousands of people gather each year for the largest Oktoberfest in the nation, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati. Play Gemütlichkeit games, fill up on brats at the World Brat-Eating Championship, and don’t miss The Running of the Weiners.

Denver, Colorado

Since 1969, Downtown Denver transforms itself into a Bavarian village for two weekends each year in celebration of Denver Oktoberfest. Head to the Mile High City to enjoy live music while you battle to win the keg bowling and stein hoisting competitions.

Frankenmuth, Michigan

Don’t drop your pretzel or spill your stein of authentic Hofbrauhaus while dancing away to traditional polka music at Frankenmuth Oktoberfest. This celebration received the first official blessing from Munich’s Oktoberfest in 1996, formally designating this Bavarian-styled small town as a spot to be during the drinking season.

Helen, Georgia

Oktoberfest may come and go in some cities, but this Alpine Village in Georgia will transport you to Bavaria 365 days a year. Dive into traditional German fare at the nation’s longest-running Oktoberfest.

New Braunfels, Texas

Wurstfest began in 1961 as a festival to honor sausage. Today, it is a 10-day festival celebrating the rich German culture in this small Texas city. Spend a magical weekend in the carnival atmosphere enjoying beer from Germany and Texas, and other authentic Bavarian treats.

This Oktoberfest, hire a Lawn Love pro to handle your yard chores so you can relax with a cold one.

Main photo credit: iStock

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.