The Top Ten Places in the U.S. for Craft Beer

RewardExpert analyzed over 4.5 million consumer reviews of over 50,000 beers produced by almost 6,000 breweries across the U.S. to definitively determine where the best brews and breweries are located.

RewardExpert

The current state of beer and craft brewing in the United States is a far cry from what once was the case none too long ago: craft beer is decidedly in. Even the corporations that produce them on an industrial scale have quietly got into the craft beer game by acquiring smaller, craft breweries. Without knowing it, you could be buying a so-called craft beer owned and distributed by a corporate giant.

With well over 100,000 distinct beers in the United States, it’s a rather intimidating task to cultivate an intimate knowledge of craft beer. It will take either extensive research, or an invincible liver and an unlimited budget, that much is certain.

RewardExpert took a different approach in order to take the guesswork (and hangovers) out of the equation. We analyzed a total of 4,510,386 reviews of 110,419 beers and identified reviews of one or more beers produced by 5,760 breweries across the country. We calculated average ratings for each brewery and then calculated an average rating for breweries located in each 3-digit ZIP code area using GIS data and software. We ranked places according to a score based on average brewery ratings, the number of breweries per 100,000 residents, and the total number of reviews found.

Note: while beers and breweries were rated on a scale of one to five, very few breweries and regions received a mean or median rating in excess of 4.0. The highest area average brewery rating in our analysis was 4.59, one of only five areas to exceed an average brewery rating of 4.1. As for breweries: only 9.28% received an average rating of 4.0 or higher. Bear this in mind when interpreting average review ratings figures.

Top Ten Places:

Two Harbors, MN / Arrowhead Region

1
  • 3 Digit Zip Code: 556
  • Breweries Per 100,000 Residents: 37.36
  • Top Brewery: Castle Danger Brewery - Rating: 4.0

First place goes to the area centered upon Two Harbors, Minnesota, in the state’s so-called Arrowhead Region. It encompasses all of Lake and Cook Counties, which lie along the shore of Lake Superior, northeast of Duluth. The fact that the Twin Harbors area (16,062) is much less populous than the neighboring Two Ports region surrounding Duluth, MN, and Superior, WI, makes the six breweries it is home to amount to a staggering 37.36 breweries per 100,000 residents. The area brewery median rating of 3.63 and a mean rating of 3.73 reflect a high standard of overall quality, as expressed by reviewers’ ratings. Check out Castle Danger Brewery, the highest rated brewery in the area, which received an even 4.0 average review on a five point scale.

City and County of Boulder, CO

2
  • 3 Digit Zip Code: 803
  • Breweries Per 100,000 Residents: 25.28
  • Top Brewery: Southern Sun Pub and Brewery
  • Brewery Rating: 4.06

Colorado was bound to show up on our list of the top ten beer destinations in the U.S., and in fact, areas within Colorado showed up so frequently atop the ranking that we had to aggregate neighboring ZIP code areas into regional entities to make room for everyone else. Out of three entries on our top ten from Colorado, only the Boulder metropolitan area (which encompasses the entirety of Boulder County) stands alone and uncombined. And for good reason: Boulder County is home to 32 breweries and brewpubs, which produce many highly rated beers. It is, moreover, home to at least one brewery in the top 9% of all breweries we rated, consider visiting, or at least sampling the wares and provender of the Southern Sun Pub and Brewery.

Jackson, WY

3
  • 3 Digit Zip Code: 830
  • Breweries Per 100,000 Residents: 27.29
  • Top Brewery: - Melvin Brewing - Rating: 3.63

Third place Jackson, Wyoming, is the largest city in Teton County. Not surprisingly, for an affluent enclave in the Rockies, the Jackson area is home to only 21,989 people and six breweries. This amounts to a sky high 27.29 breweries per 100,000 people, the second highest per capita brewery density out of all areas atop our list. While the top-rated brewery in the area received a relatively modest average rating of 3.63 on a scale of one to five, breweries located in the Jackson region produce beers that receive consistently high, if not the highest, ratings from consumers.

Uncompahgre Region / Southwest Colorado

4
  • 3 Digit Zip Code: 814, 813, 812, 811
  • Cities: Montrose, Delta, Cedar Ridge, Durango, and Gunnison, CO
  • Breweries Per 100,000 Residents: 16.47
  • Top Brewery: Pagosa Brewing - Rating: 4.12

Colorado is home to a veritable ocean’s worth of high-quality beer, so much so that in order to ensure some amount of geographical diversity, the four 3-digit ZIP code areas covering the southwestern quadrant of the state have been combined here and are listed as a single entity at number four of our top ten. While the number of breweries per capita here is a more modest 16.47 breweries per hundred thousand people, it is sufficient to secure the place of the Southwest Colorado region at number four on our top ten list. At least, it is so in combination with high average marks in beer reviews, as well as a volume of reviews that demonstrates sustained demand and consumption, Local brewery, Pagosa Brewing, is among the top-rated breweries in the nation.

Asheville, NC

5
  • 3 Digit Zip Code: 288
  • Breweries Per 100,000 Residents: 23.23
  • Top Brewery: Wedge Brewing - Rating: 3.97

This is not the first time that fifth place Asheville, North Carolina, has been featured in RewardExpert’s studies. We have previously recognized Asheville as one of the top foodie cities in the United States, and in light of this, it would be surprising if Asheville did not rate highly for beverages and breweries. This is all the more so, if you consider the number of brewpubs that do double duty for both beer connoisseurs and foodies. With 28 breweries in Asheville and its immediate vicinity, there are 23.33 per 100,000 people with ZIP codes beginning with 288, and the area average rating across all breweries, for all beers, over a ten year period of time is 3.7 on a five-point scale.

The Colorado High Rockies

6
  • 3 Digit Zip Code: 804, 805
  • Cities: Evergreen, Leadville, Fort Collins, and Greely, CO
  • Breweries Per 100,000 Residents: 14.99
  • Top Brewery: Hops Grillhouse & Brewery - Rating: 4.17

Once again, and for the last time in this list, we return to the state that appears to be America’s beer mecca: Colorado. The Colorado Northern Rockies region abuts Boulder to the south and the Denver metropolitan area to the southeast, extending from Fort Collins in Larimer County, westward across North Park and Jackson County, to Steamboat Springs in Routt County. While the number of breweries currently operating in the area is in the triple digits, standing at 112 in the most current data, the area is home to three quarters of a million people, resulting in a modest 14.99 breweries per 100,000. What made the Colorado Northern Rockies region truly stand out is the staggeringly high volume of reviews we found—indicating strong demand—with 230 reviews and ratings going into our ranking.

Juneau, AK

7
  • 3 Digit Zip Code: 998
  • Breweries Per 100,000 Residents: 15.52
  • Top Brewery: Alaskan Brewing - Rating: 3.91

Our seventh place pick is a little off the beaten track, but readers of our previous studies might recall that Anchorage, Alaska, was recently highlighted as one of America’s top off-the-beaten-track destinations where you’ll find the best wines. That Juneau and its environs ranked in the top ten for beers and breweries, then, should not surprise everyone. With a population of only a little over 50,000, Juneau’s eight breweries are enough to ensure a respectable per capita brewery density. Where Juneau shines is in the reviews: the median brewery rating here is a solid 3.82, and with Alaskan Brewing, the top-rated Juneau brewery receiving an average rating of 3.91, the lowest rated brewery still scored a respectable 3.57. The take-away: Juneau’s breweries are all consistently highly rated.

Portland, ME

8
  • 3 Digit Zip Code: 041
  • Breweries Per 100,000 Residents: 19.13
  • Top Brewery: Maine Beer - Rating: 4.22

Both Portlands rated highly (top 25) for their concentration of breweries and brewpubs, and for the quality of their potable products, but in this top ten, there can be only one Portland;the one in Maine. Portland, Maine, came out ahead of Portland, Oregon, on every metric: the best brewery is better (average rating 4.22 vs. 4.085), the worst brewery is better rated (3.32 vs 3.26), the median brewery review is higher (3.77 vs 3.66), and there are more breweries per capita in the Maine Portland, 19.13 per 100,000 residents (22 breweries to 112,000 residents), versus Oregon’s 12.31.

Boston, MA--NH--RI Metropolitan Area

9
  • 3 Digit Zip Code: 022
  • Breweries Per 100,000 Residents: 14.66
  • Top Brewery: Backlash Beer
  • Brewery Rating: 4.07

It is but a hop, a skip, and a jump from Portland, Maine, to our ninth rated beer and brewery hotspot: the greater Boston metropolitan area, which spills slightly over into the states of New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Boston contains within its bounds a hotspot in the heart of a hotspot, the area within which the USPS has assigned ZIP codes beginning with 022, which puts Boston on the map for having the highest median rating for its breweries, an impressive 3.93. Even the lowest rated brewery here received an average review to be proud of, 3.78.

Bend, OR / Central Oregon

10
  • 3 Digit Zip Code: 977
  • Breweries Per 100,000 Residents: 18.08
  • Top Brewery: Deschutes Brewery - Rating: 4.14

Rounding out our list at number ten is another returning champion, previously featured in one of RewardExpert’s reports as a prime location to purchase a home for purposes of winter vacations. The area within which ZIP codes begin with 977 includes Bend, Oregon, as its principal population center, but extends deep into Oregon’s Eastern high desert area. There are a total of 40 breweries and brewpubs in and around Bend, Oregon, including the highly rated Deschutes Brewery, and 221,000 resident humanoids, or one brewery for every 5,000 people.

The Best Rated Breweries In The U.S.

  • Round Guys Brewing, Lansdale, PA - 5.0
  • Elizabeth Street Brewery, San Francisco, CA - 5.0
  • Von Scheidt Brewing, Twin Falls, ID - 4.75
  • Brass Monkey Brewing, Kokomo, IN - 4.6
  • Comanche Creek Brewing, Eagle Nest, NM - 4.5
  • Willoughby Brewing, Willoughby, OH - 4.5
  • 4 Hands Brewing, St. Louis, MO - 4.5
  • High Point Brewing, Gypsum, CO - 4.5
  • Telluride Brewing, Telluride, CO - 4.5
  • Cape May Brewing, Rio Grande, NJ - 4.44

Best Credit Cards for Foodies

If you love great beer and fantastic food, you need to get a credit card that rewards you for you passions. There are a number of cards on the market that offer bonus cash back or travel rewards for dining out, including bars and brewpubs.

Get the Most Cash Back

You may be surprised to hear that the Uber Visa card is great for dining out. This cashback card gives you an impressive 4 percent back at restaurants and bars, and for takeout. You won’t find a better return rate for food and beverages with any other card.

Uber Visa Card

INTRO APR on Purchases
N/A
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% to 25.24% Variable±
Annual Fee
$0
Bonuses & Rewards
  • 4x Points on Dining
  • 3x Points on Travel
  • 2x Points on Online Purchases, including Uber, Online Shopping, and Video and Music Streaming Services
  • 1x Points on All Other Purchases
  • 10,000 bonus points worth $100 after spending $500 in the first 90 days
  • Up to $600 in mobile phone protection, including damage and theft, when you use your card to pay your monthly phone bill
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee
Show More Details
Hide Details

You’ll also get 3 percent back on hotel and airfare, making this card an excellent choice for your next trip to a beer destination.

Bonus Rewards While Dining Out and Grocery Shopping

The Capital One Savor card is designed for foodies. Not only will you get 3 percent cash back for dining out, but you’ll get 2 percent back at grocery stores. That means you’ll get bonus cash back for both stopping at the local brewpub and picking up a six pack on your way home from work.

Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card

INTRO APR on Purchases
0% intro on purchases for 15 months
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Program
Capital One® Cash Back Rewards
Bonuses & Rewards
  • + Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment
  • + 2% at grocery stores
  • + and 1% on all other purchases
  • Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 14.74% - 24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74% - 24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • + No annual fee
Show More Details
Hide Details

For the Frequent Traveler

If you travel a lot and enjoy the finer things in life, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the way to go. This premium travel card offers big perks that can more than justify its annual fee.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

INTRO APR on Purchases
N/A
INTRO apr on Balance Transfer
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Rewards Program
Ultimate Rewards®
Bonuses & Rewards
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2017’ by MONEY® Magazine
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee
Show More Details
Hide Details

Not only will you earn 3x points for dining and travel purchases, but you’ll get complimentary access to Priority Pass airport lounges for you and three companions, an annual $300 travel credit, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit, special privileges at various car rental companies, and a lot more.

There’s no reason you shouldn’t be earning a little extra on your next food adventure, even if that’s just trying the new seasonal brew at your local brewery. There are so many rewards credit cards on the market, there’s sure to be one to fit your lifestyle.

Methodology

methodology

RewardExpert analyzed a total of 4,510,386 reviews of 110,419 beers, drawn from data sets compiled by researchers using web-crawling techniques. We identified reviews for one or more beers produced by a total of 5,760 breweries out of the 8,798 breweries included in POI Factory’s geocoded North American Breweries data set.

We calculated average ratings, first for every beer, then for each brewery, and then a regional average including all breweries located within each 3-digit ZIP code area using Matlab and QGIS for bulk data analysis and geographical aggregation and analysis, respectively. We ranked places according to a score based on 1) average brewery ratings, 2) the number of breweries per 100,000 residents (as determined by the number of breweries falling within the boundaries of each area, and Census Bureau population figures), and 3) the total number of reviews found.

Prior to computing a final composite score, each sub-score calculated for these three metrics was scaled to a value ranging from 0 to 1, linearly in the case of the first two, and according to a first-order exponential function in the case of the last. The final score used to determine our ranking and top ten is a weighted average of 1) ratings (double weight); 2) breweries per 100,000 residents; and, 3) the ratio of the quantity of reviews to the number of breweries within the boundaries of each 3-digit ZIP code area (half weight).

Sources:

BeerAdvocate Reviews https://data.world/socialmediadata/beeradvocate

RateBeer Reviews https://webpages.uncc.edu/~hli38/data/index.html

POI Factory North American Breweries http://www.poi-factory.com/node/21733

Indicators

Sources: