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The 8 Best Beer Towns in America

Yet another argument starter...


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  1. Considering they got a pretty basic detail spectacularly wrong (I guess that's the new CNN for you), not sure how much credence I'd give this list. Pat McIlhenny in San Diego is the owner of Alpine Brewing Co., and has nothing to do with The Linkery, which is a farm-to-table restaurant.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      You can pretty much count on mistakes in these kinds of stories in the mainstream press, unless written by someone specifically knowledgeable, such as Asimov in the NYT.

      1. re: Josh

        At least they knew enough to sneak in Bend and Asheville at 7 and 8 or else they would have gotten blitzed by their highly ... um... enthusiastic residents who just cant seem to say enough about their respective beer worthiness. But I AM sure theyve gotten their fare share of complaints from the Grand Rapids folks by now.

        1. re: Insidious Rex

          I have never been to Asheville but I can say without a doubt that Bend's inclusion is well deserved.

        2. re: Josh

          Not to mention that SD now sports over 60 operating breweries. The '30' breweries number is several years old. I suspect the author did most of their research on the internet rather than visiting the cities to get detailed info.

          1. re: Slightly Grey

            Both this and the OP's reference are pretty much correct. I think missing is Wisconsin as a state. There is a lot of shuffling going on. Minneapolis/St. Paul is finally making a belated push thanks to recent changes in the laws to join the group.

            Disappointments? That great independent state of Texas. I covered the state in March and April driving some 6,000 miles and decided the whole state is locked up with BudMillerCoors and a smattering of Shiner and Lone Star, and across the border Mexican brews. Not very inspiring.

            1. re: Davydd

              Did you not spend any time in Austin? There are over 15 breweries in that town. Jester King is developing a national reputation for its creativity and Live Oak makes one of the best hefeweizens brewed in the US. 512 and Hops and Grain are both quite good, too.

              What about Freetail in San Antonio, Deep Ellum in Dallas, Southern Star and Saint Arnold in Houston?

              I have had impressive beers from all of these breweries. Texas got a late start but the beer scene (at least in the metro areas) is much better than you suggest.

              1. re: brentk

                Not to mention Rahr and Real Ale.

                1. re: brentk

                  I spend a lot of time in Houston, and I am not a fan of Southern Star, Saint Arnold or Shiner. I'll have to try to get to Austin at some point, because I agree with Davydd, Texas has been disappointing so far. To Texas's credit, usually the liquor stores carry a great selection of beers, but I stopped buying the local stuff, it just strikes me as high-end coors (I realize this is a terrible thing to say, sorry).

                  1. re: Shaggy

                    Try the beers from Real Ale or Rahr and Sons. Real Ale in particular makes outstanding beers.

                    1. re: Josh

                      A couple of weeks ago I bought a sixer of Real Ale double ESB. Pretty tasty.

                    2. re: Shaggy

                      Well, you missed the best beer city (Austin) in the entire state, so to say Texas has been disappointing so far is just, i don't know, ridiculous. If you haven't been to Austin you're not qualified to comment on the subject.
                      And, Shiner and Lone Star don't count.
                      And what don't you like about St. Arnold? Their Elissa IPA is a damn tasty well balanced IPA.

                      1. re: TroyTempest

                        It's not ridiculous to say that a state has disappointing beer, when the really good stuff is essentially located in one place. I live in Illinois, and I don't have to go to Chicago to get great beer, and I can say the same of California, Mass, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana, Michigan, etc (all places that I've lived or spent lots of time in). Craft beer does not seem to have caught on in Texas like in other states overall, and Houston is a major US city. I'm not saying Texas is bad, Texas is great, and they have great food. But the beer isn't there yet. Also, you say Shiner and Lone Star don't count, but that would be like me saying Goose Island doesn't count. Regarding St. Arnold, I haven't had the Elissa and will check it out. I've had 5 or 6 other varities, and they tasted sugary to me.

                        1. re: Shaggy

                          To clarify, I don't think that anyone would hold up Shiner or Lone Star as examples of Texas craft beer. It would be akin to saying to saying that Chicago beers are disappointing, Old Style is nothing great. Shiner does make some interesting beers (usually the seasonal offerings), but the best seller, Shiner Bock is just ok, and from what I understand from those more knowledgeable than me, not really a true bock.
                          Since you spend time in Houston, you probably know that there is no longer a Lone Star brewery. Pabst or whoever that company that owns Pabst bought Lone Star as well as Pearl many years ago and it is contract brewed by somebody. miller i think.
                          I would agree with you that in most places in Texas (especially Dallas or Houston), if you walk into a regular bar or a restaurant, not a beer bar or someplace noted for beer the taps will be something like this:
                          B,M,C lite
                          Dos Equis
                          Shiner Bock (priced as an Import)
                          Maybe a token Import, say Guiness

                          BTW, there really aren't any tall trees in California, of course I haven't been to Yosemite yet.

                          1. re: TroyTempest

                            The original comment was about the state of Texas, not a single city in the state. I wouldn't fault someone if they said that brisket in Illinois sucked, nor would I think they didn't know bbq, because they hadn't visitied the handful of places in Chicago that are decent.

                            1. re: Shaggy

                              There's plenty of good beer in TX, even without going to Austin. Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Houston all have Flying Saucer locations and they have a great selection of beers, including Texas craft options.

                              I've found good beer in Ft. Worth, Dallas, and even Waco without breaking a sweat. If you're going to normal BBQ restaurants and the like then you won't find the good stuff, that's true.

                            2. re: TroyTempest

                              Troy, You hit it right on the head about the tap beers. That lineup is more times than not. My comments about Texas were relative to other beer states in my travels of over 120,000 miles in an RV over the past 8 years. Relative mind you. I found St. Arnolds in Houston and Galveston. No, I did not spend much time at all in Austin but I did spend time in Houston and San Antonio. San Antonio River Walk for instance is a beer disappointment. I tend to seek out independent and roadfood like places not chains and stop at liquor stores and supermarkets to stock my RV. For that matter, the whole South is a relative beer disappointment compared to the North, Northwest and Rocky Mountains. You'll never find a supermarket with a beer lineup in the South comparable to what the Woodman's chain in Wisconsin would have. Maybe it is the heat that drives them to thinking a light beer from B,M,C is a beer. ;)

                              1. re: Davydd

                                I think theres a number of folks in Georgia (specifically Decatur) that would disagree with your blanket assessment of the south (not to mention Asheville, NC!). Although "The South" may not yet have reached the density of solid beer options that you can find in the east/midwest/west, I think you can now say that in most southern urban areas the craft beer scene has reached a threshold that makes it more than good enough. There are lots of solid beer places around the Atlanta area and one of the best beer bars in the world in Decatur. And Asheville has actually been selected as "best beer city" for several years in a row for what its worth. Ive heard many good things about other places around the south as well. These locations may not be Portland or San Diego but from my experience they are now good enough. Craft beer and beer culture has become almost ubiquitous around dense populations in this country.

                                1. re: Insidious Rex

                                  I think despite including Asheville, the point is valid.

                                  1. re: Shaggy

                                    Although I live in NC, I tend to agree with you about Asheville. That "best beer city" designation is about flooding a website with votes rather than something that was independently judged by qualified observers. In any event, there are still a few good breweries in Asheville, particularly with the recent arrival of Wicked Weed.

                                    1. re: brentk

                                      The Asheville area already hosts the new Oskar Blues brewery, with Sierra Nevada and New Belgium under construction (well, New Belgium has temporarily applied the brakes). So, the area certainly has some credentials already, and the fact that three heavy hitters chose to build there says something about the local vibe.

                                  2. re: Insidious Rex

                                    The craft beer scene can never be "good enough".

                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                      Why not? Would you reject the beer scene of a given area simply because its not Portland like?

                                      1. re: Insidious Rex

                                        There is always room for improvement. One should not become complacent.

                                        1. re: jpc8015

                                          Agreed. Especially if its your local scene. Always encourage pushing of the envelope. But at the same time we shouldnt judge everywhere based on the best available and too many beer snobs do that these days I have found (whether its beer or beer locations). Sure Hawaiian beaches are amazing to visit but they dont keep me from enjoying my occasional trips to Virginia Beach or Rehobeth.

                  2. Thanks for bumping this... raises an interesting question... interesting story...