Best cities for beer drinkers
A bartender pours a pint of draft beer.
If you’re a die-hard beer lover in the U.S., you’re not alone. In 2019, the U.S. beer industry sold around $120 billion worth of beer through retail businesses. That dropped in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the industry is making a comeback. The U.S. is a beer haven. In 2021, the U.S. produced 81% of all beer sold domestically and imported only 19% from other countries. But where is the best city for beer drinkers to live?
To find out, SmartAsset compared 393 cities across the following metrics: total number of breweries, breweries per 100,000 residents, the average number of beers per brewery, bars per 100,000 residents and the average price of a pint. For details on our data sources and how SmartAsset put all the information together to create our final rankings, read the Data and Methodology section below.
- Chicago reigns supreme with the most breweries. Last year, SmartAsset gave the Windy City praise for its 101 breweries, and in 2022 it beat the competition once again with 103. The runner-up has 21 breweries fewer at 82, and the average for the study is just eight per city. Although Chicago wasn’t able to clear our top 10 list, it made it into the top 50 (No. 35).
- The top three beer-drinking cities held their ground. The top three remained unchanged with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Bend, Oregon and Milwaukee, Wisconsin holding their previous spots in this year’s rankings. In general, the top of the list held steady, with eight out of 10 cities retaining a top-10 spot from the previous year.
- The study’s average price per pint is $4.68. Among the top 10 cities, eight of them charge drinkers less than the study average. The city with the cheapest price for a cold one: Clifton, New Jersey. Beer lovers can score a cold one for $1.85 in this New York City suburb.
Pittsburgh takes the lead for most beer-friendly cities
A map of the United States showing the top ten cities for beer drinkers.
1. Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh did it again with its second-consecutive No. 1 ranking in our best cities for beer drinkers study. It ranks No. 11 for the total number of breweries (33) and No. 18 for breweries per 100,000 residents (11). The city also records a lower-than-average price per pint of beer at $4.00, with the study average slightly higher at $4.68. Breweries in Pittsburgh run the gamut. Beer aficionados can visit everything from the German-style Penn Brewery to the buzzy Dancing Gnome or the lively, outdoor-centric Grist House Craft Brewery.
2. Bend, OR
Next to hold its rank was Bend, Oregon in the No. 2 spot. This city lost three breweries last year, bringing its total to roughly 22, which is down from 25 breweries in our previous study. Bend averages 110 beers per brewery and costs $4.00 on average per pint. In Bend, beer drinkers can visit the home of Deschutes for a Black Butte porter or Jubelale.
3. Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee reclaimed the No. 3 place overall. This city is home to 33 breweries, tying with Pittsburgh at No. 11 for the category of total number of breweries. Milwaukee also ranked 16th-highest for its number of bars per 100,000 residents. Schlitz claims the mantle of “the beer that made Milwaukee famous,” but other well-known breweries dot the city.
4. St. Louis, MO
St. Louis, missing from our top 50 last year, made a significant jump in rankings for this year’s study to secure the No. 4 spot. St. Louis ranks 27th overall for the total number of breweries (23) and No. 24 for the average number of beers per brewery (127). That said, a brewski is going to cost you here; the average pint in St. Louis is $4.50. For beer drinkers, the city is often synonymous with the mega-brewery Anheuser-Busch.
5. Asheville, NC
Beer culture remains strong in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Asheville ranks first overall for the number of breweries per 100,000 residents (27.6) and 27th for the average number of beers per brewery (118.2). But expect to pay a bit more for your beer. Its average pint of beer costs $5.00. If you live in Asheville, you have access to a variety of beer-related events and scenes, including nano-breweries, taprooms, festivals and brewery tours.
6. Cincinnati, OH
Dropping two spots to No. 6 overall, Cincinnati still has much to offer beer lovers. It has 30 breweries spread across the city and ranks No. 17 for the total number of breweries and the average number of beers per brewery (145.3). That said, the average pint of beer here is $5.00. Locals enjoy tasty IPAs, including Rhinegeist’s Truth IPA and MadTree’s Psychopathy IPA.
7. New Orleans, LA
The party city of New Orleans may have come in at No. 7 overall, but it managed to secure the No. 1 spot for the number of bars per 100,000 residents (58.4). Plus it doesn’t hurt that they also have inexpensive pint prices ($3.25). With 17 breweries and 49.5 average beers per brewery, New Orleans remains a great place for beer drinkers.
8. Fort Collins, CO
Fort Collins averages $4.50 for a pint of beer, which is 18 cents less than the average for the study. It is also the home to 22 breweries, tying them for the No. 30 spot with Bend, Oregon in that metric. Fort Collins was a “dry” town until 1969 when the sale of alcohol became legal. Today it’s home to breweries such as Odell Brewing Company and New Belgium Brewing.
9. Austin, TX
Austin is home to 45 breweries, a main contributor to its high ranking in this year’s study as it was the only category that was double-weighted. Austin also performed well in our other categories, landing in the middle of the pack for breweries per 100,000 residents (No. 113) and an average number of beers per brewery (No. 159). Austin is widely known for its craft beers and the atmosphere in which they’re served. Locals and visitors can enjoy open-air venues, local musicians and a wide selection of local brews at places like Austin Beerworks.
10. Missoula, MT
Missoula is a beer haven that is home to 11 breweries, with 50.7 beers per brewery. Missoula also holds the No. 21 spot with 31 bars for every 100,000 residents. Finally, with 14.7 breweries for every 100,000 residents, this city outdoes most of the competition, claiming the No. 8 spot for this metric. If you ever find yourself in this beer epicenter, familiar parties suggest Missoula’s Moose Drool brown ale or the Summer Honey wheat ale from Big Sky Brewing.
Data and Methodology
A chart showing total breweries and average price of a pint in top ten cities.
To find the best cities for beer drinkers, we considered all the cities included in the 2021 Census with a population of 60,000, at least one brewery and available Numbeo data. This resulted in a total of 393 cities, which we compared across the following metrics:
- Total number of breweries. Data comes from ratebeer.com and was pulled in November 2022.
- Number of breweries per 100,000 residents. Data on microbreweries and brewpubs comes from ratebeer.com and was pulled in November 2022. Population data comes from the 2021 Census.
- Average number of beers per brewery. Data comes from ratebeer.com and was pulled in November 2022.
- Number of bars per 100,000 residents. Data on bars comes from the 2020 County Business Patterns Survey while population data comes from the 2021 Census. This metric is at the county level.
- Average price for a pint of domestic draught beer. Data comes from Numbeo.com and was pulled in January 2022.
First, SmartAsset ranked each city in each metric. Then each city’s average ranking was given a half weight to the average number of beers per brewery, a single weight to breweries per 100,000 residents, bars per 100,000 residents and average price of a pint, and a double weight to the total number of breweries. Using this average ranking, SmartAsset created the final score. The city with the best average ranking received an index score of 100, and the city with the worst average ranking received an index score of 0.