2021’s Best Cities for Beer Lovers

Group of friends enjoyinga beer tasting at a restaurant or brewery

With thousands of breweries, pubs, and taprooms throughout America, where can you get the perfect pint?

Lawn Love ranked 180 of the largest U.S. cities to determine 2021’s Best Cities for Beer Lovers. We searched for cities with plenty of breweries, award-winning beers, cheap pints, beer-centered festivals, and a big beer-loving community.

Use our rankings, in-depth analysis, and expert advice to start planning your Oktoberfest celebrations (and libations).

In this article

  1. City rankings
  2. Results in depth
  3. Expert take
  4. Beer by the numbers
  5. Methodology
  6. Final thoughts: Order a flight and hop around the country

City rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

Infographic showing the best cities for beer lovers, a ranking based on brewery access, beer awards, costs, consumer ratings, and more
Note: A total of 180 cities were ranked in this study. Due to a number of ties for some metrics, however, the lowest-ranking position for those metrics may not be 180. 

Results in depth

Hop over to the PNW

Pacific Northwest cities earned their spots at the top of our ranking. 

Spokane, Washington, took home the crown as our No. 1 Beer City and also placed second in both Access and the prestigious World Beer Awards. With its close proximity to inland wheat, barley, and the state’s hop fields, Spokane has all the ingredients to craft a delicious brew. 

Portland, Oregon, microbrewery capital of the world, came in close behind at No. 2 both overall and in Beer Quality. The locally dubbed “Beervana” boasts more than 70 breweries. Movie theaters that sell beer are another popular attraction for Portlanders and hipster tourists alike.

In Seattle (No. 4), coffee isn’t the only beverage that’s brewing. The Emerald City placed first in Beer Quality. There are more than 60 breweries in the city, which honors its craft during the annual Seattle Beer Week. 

Local tip: Portland hosts a number of beer festivals. Check out the Holiday Ale Festival (December), Spring Beer and Wine Festival, the North American Organic Brewers Festival (June), Portland Beer Week (June) Portland International Beerfest (July), and Oregon Brewers Festival (July). 

If you’re in Seattle, be sure to check out the local brewery, Cloudburst Brewing. They were recently named “Brewery and Brewer of the Year” at the Great American Beer Festival.

Drinking high and dry

Quench your thirst in the Colorado mountains and Utah desert. Denver (No. 3), Fort Collins (No. 10), Colorado, and Salt Lake City (No. 6) have proven to be draught destinations. 

Placing fourth in Beer Quality, Denver doesn’t shy away from first-class brews. Every fall, the city celebrates its favorite beverage during the Great American Beer Festival, which recently awarded medals to 20 local breweries. 

Nearby Fort Collins may have a smaller population, but this city still has plenty of places to tingle your taste buds, ranking sixth in Access for its numerous breweries, pubs, and bars. The city’s love for beer goes beyond its annual Colorado Brewers’ Festival — it also hosts an annual Ballet, Broadway, and Beer event and participates in the Colorado Brewery Running Series

Salt Lake City also has bubbled to the brim of the beer world in the past couple of decades with more than 30 breweries and counting. In addition to its high overall ranking, the city placed sixth in Beer Quality. Home to the Utah Beer Festival and Beer and Fear Fest, Salt Lake City is a great place to get a buzz in the Beehive.

Local tip: Explore the Denver Beer Trails and try a handful of the metro area’s hundred breweries, pubs, and taprooms. Many restaurants in the Mile High City also host on-site breweries. 

Fort Collins is home to New Belgium Brewing Company — one of the largest craft breweries in the U.S.

Built on beer

Pre-Prohibition, Cincinnati was the “Beer Capital of the World.” It continues to fight back for the title, ranking fifth both overall and in our Access metric and placing 10th in Establishment Quality. 

Beer is so integral to Cincinnati culture that it literally shaped the city’s architecture — throughout the city you can find vast underground tunnels and cellars that were built to store millions of gallons of beer. 

Today, Cincy is home to Zinzinnati — the largest Oktoberfest celebration in the U.S. 

Local tip: Check out the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District or tour the Brewing Heritage Trails.

Revolutionary brewing

Despite being called “the Puritan City,” Boston landed at No. 7 among our Best Cities for Beer Lovers. Beantown also placed third in the Beer Quality rank, which is to be expected given the city’s rich history and local Trillium Brewing Company’s acclaim as the third Best Brewers in the World.

Boston is the birthplace of American favorite, Samuel Adams. The city also hosts several festivals throughout the year, including the Power Beer Fest, Extreme Beer Fest, SoBo Brew Fest, and Beer Summit Harvest Fest

With an over 250-year brewing history, it’s no surprise that Pittsburgh (No. 8) made the top 10. The city also finished seventh in Access and eighth in Establishment Quality. 

Steel City is home to Brew, the Museum of Beer, where you can learn about Pittsburgh’s rich history. You can get a taste of the city’s offerings at Pittsburgh Beerfest, All-Star Craft Beer Festival (hosted by The Pirates), and Beers of the Burgh Festival. 

Local tip: Check out local favorite and pioneer of the American craft beer movement Penn Brewery.

Sour cities

San Bernardino, California (No. 180), Columbus, Georgia (No. 179), Kansas City, Kansas (No. 178), Plano, Texas (No. 177), and Laredo, Texas (No. 176) scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to beer access, quality, and community interest. 

Compared with the rest of America’s major cities, there aren’t many opportunities to try a quality ale here. At least Columbus and Kansas City have more affordable options out of the bunch, landing in 35th and 37th places, respectively, in the Cost metric. 

All of these cities have populations below 300,000, so perhaps the microbrewery movement is still beer-crawling its way to them.

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. Beer pickup and delivery exploded in popularity during the pandemic, as state and local rules were relaxed. Will those rules be reversed or become permanent as life somewhat returns to normal?
  4. What types of food pair best with which types of beer?
  5. How does temperature affect taste?
  6. How does container material (glass, aluminum, etc.) affect taste?
  7. How does the water source influence the brewing process?
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.

Beer pickup and delivery exploded in popularity during the pandemic, as state and local rules were relaxed. Will those rules be reversed or become permanent as life somewhat returns to normal? Please explain.

It depends on how well state-level brewing organizations lobby governments. Distributors get bypassed when breweries sell directly to customers. You can count on distributors trying to shift back to pre-pandemic rules and traditionally they employ armies of lobbyists.

The typical microbrewery makes roughly seven times as much money selling direct rather than through a distributor. Explaining to legislators how many jobs are created by economically healthy breweries and appealing to belief in the American free enterprise system can be effective arguments.

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.

Beer pickup and delivery exploded in popularity during the pandemic, as state and local rules were relaxed. Will those rules be reversed or become permanent as life somewhat returns to normal? Please explain.

I’m hoping this trend continues. The history of beer has always been influenced by government policies and taxes. I expect that to continue.

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.

Beer pickup and delivery exploded in popularity during the pandemic, as state and local rules were relaxed. Will those rules be reversed or become permanent as life somewhat returns to normal? Please explain.

As with most things in our country, once the floodgates are open, they’re very hard to close. I expect that these services will continue in high-demand markets but will go away in smaller markets.

There is something about going into a beer store and just looking at the bottle or can labels. You don’t get the same effect online.

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.

Beer pickup and delivery exploded in popularity during the pandemic, as state and local rules were relaxed. Will those rules be reversed or become permanent as life somewhat returns to normal? Please explain.

No novel thoughts. Depends on too many factors to predict: markets, evolution of customer preferences, legal skirmishes. Who has the coin (or stones) when regulators descend?

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 various beer stats, such as beer consumption, beer history, and cost comparisons
Sources: Brewers Association, World Health Organization, Discover Puerto Rico, Gallup, Library of Congress, The Mob Museum, Library of Congress, National Today, National Beer Wholesalers Association, Britannica, Britannica, oktoberfest.de | Research by: Sarah Bahr


We ranked 180 of the biggest U.S. cities from best to worst (1-180) based on their overall scores (out of 100 points), averaged across the weighted metrics listed below. 


  • Craft Breweries per 100,000 Residents (Weight: 3)
  • Beer Gardens per 100,000 Residents (Weight: 3)
  • Pubs per 100,000 Residents (Weight: 3)
  • Beer Bars per 100,000 Residents (Weight: 3)
  • Beer/Brewery Tours per 100,000 Residents (Weight: 1)

Establishment Quality

  • Median Consumer Rating for Craft Breweries (Weight: 2)
  • Median Consumer Rating for Beer Gardens (Weight: 2)
  • Median Consumer Rating for Pubs (Weight: 2)
  • Median Consumer Rating for Beer Bars (Weight: 2)
  • Median Consumer Rating for Beer/Brewery Tours (Weight: 1)

Beer Quality

  • Total Points for Great American Beer Festival Medals in Past 3 Years (Weight: 3)
  • Total Points for International Beer Awards in Past 3 Years (Weight: 3)
  • Total Points for World Beer Awards in Past 3 Years (Weight: 4)


  • Average Market Price for Domestic Beer (Weight: 2)
  • Average Market Price for Imported Beer (Weight: 2)
  • Average Restaurant Price for Domestic Beer (Weight: 2)
  • Average Restaurant Price for Imported Beer (Weight: 2)


  • Share of Adults Who Drank Beer in Past 6 Months (Weight: 1) 
  • Beer Meetup Groups per 100,000 Residents (Weight: 1)
  • Beer Festivals per 100,000 Residents (Weight: 1)
  • Beer Parties per 100,000 Residents (Weight: 1)


BreweryDB, Eventbrite, Great American Beer Festival, Livability, Meetup, North American Brewers Association, World Beer Awards, and Yelp

Final thoughts: Order a flight and hop around the country

Whether you prefer stouts or IPAs, get ready to celebrate Oktoberfest by cracking open a cold one with your friends. 

The beer industry continues to innovate and expand every year, which means more choices for all of us. 

But if you’re after a distinct style or a local favorite, you’ll have the best luck in particular regions. In addition to the top cities in our ranking, here are a few other hop destinations for beer lovers:

  • Bargersville, Indiana: Home to Taxman Brewing Company, winner of World’s Best Dark Beer 2021 and World’s Best Flavored Stout/Porter 2021 titles
  • Louisville, Kentucky: Find a quality pint at Against the Grain, a craft brewery operating in Louisville Slugger Field — home to minor league baseball team, the Louisville Bats. 
  • Pottsville, Pennsylvania: Home to America’s Oldest Operating Brewery, Yuengling. Grab a growler and tour their centuries-old brewery. 
  • South Kingstown, Rhode Island: Visit Whalers Brewing Company, winner of the World’s Best IPA 2021 title.
  • Tampa, Florida: Take a trip to Cigar City Brewing Co., where you can sip on a beer and smoke a hand-rolled cigar. 

There’s nothing more refreshing than cracking open a cold beer after laboring away in your yard. But why not take it easy this weekend and hire a lawn care expert to get the job done for you? Check out some of your local breweries and make a toast to celebrate all the time and energy you saved.

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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