1. Portland, OR
Movie theaters, arcades, putt putt courses, strip clubs, concerts, museums, tattoo parlors, optometrists’ offices, art galleries, and record shops. What do they all have in common? Those aren’t just great places to stage adult movies -- they’re all places where you’re likely to drink beer in Portland.
More than 70 breweries call the city-proper home (not including the sprawling suburbs), which places Portland as the city with the biggest volume of beer out there. Widmer Brothers -- who were on the cutting edge of craft beer when "craft beer" wasn’t even a phrase -- got their start here, laying the groundwork for some of the best brewers in the country to do their thing. And now, Portland’s ground zero for some of the best brewing in the country, from Breakside -- purveyors of this year’s GABF-winning IPA -- to the barrel-aged innovation of Cascade and Upright, the legendary Hair of the Dog, the weirdos at Gigantic, and newer guys like the great Ecliptic and Ex Novo, which is the city’s first nonprofit brewery.
And lest you think it’s all craft and snobbery, the city’s also credited with revitalizing Pabst for the younger crowd. Depending on your opinion of skinny jeans, you might have Portland to thank for keeping you hydrated and out of poverty. So while the city has its fair share of beer snobs (“supporters of native Oregon beer,” they call themselves), there’s really something for everybody in the City of Roses.
Add to that some of the best beer bars in the country, an endless parade of fests (ranging from the enormous Oregon Brewers Fest to the Fruit Beer Fest, Cheers to Belgian Beers, and Firkin Fest), bartenders leading the charge for beer/cocktail hybridization, and a brewing community that's more "love (and collaborate with) thy neighbor" than competitive, and you don’t just have a great beer city. You have the best damned beer city in the country.
The breweries: Breakside Brewery, Hair of the Dog, Gigantic, Cascade, Hopworks, Upright, Laurelwood, Widmer Brothers
The bars: Horse Brass Pub, Bailey’s Taproom, APEX, Imperial Bottle Shop, Saraveza, Belmont Station
Tradition: Back in the day, workers in downtown’s Brewery Blocks constantly drank on the job, thanks to the gigantic Henry Weinhard's brewing. This led the city to install water fountains throughout the city. Today, the Benson Bubblers aren’t just operational: they’re Portland icons.
Andy Kryza is a senior editor on Thrillist's Food & Drink team and lives in Portland, but all the writers who helped him with this story couldn't deny that Portland is #1. Follow him to unbiased tweets: @AndyKryza.