Hoppy Travels: The 3 Best American Small Cities for Craft Brewing

Beer Flight

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It seems everyone and their nana is brewing craft beer in America these days. So it’s become damn near impossible to find the truly great brew, to separate the hops from the chaff. But some cities still rise above the rest for their solid reputation of craft beer brewing. Here, in no particular order, are three of our favorite American small cities for craft beer nerds.

#1: Portland, Maine

Often overshadowed by Oregon’s more well-known city, Portland, Maine doesn’t garner a lot of national media attention. But the city’s been at the bleeding edge of the food and beverage scene since at least the 90s. Allagash, Shipyard, and (just down the road in Freeport) Maine Brewing Company are institutions among Portlanders. But a new crop of killer microbreweries — including Austin Street Brewery, Bissell Brothers, and Liquid Riot — have cropped up in recent years.

As an added bonus, the city hosts some of the best beer bars in the country. Noteworthy stops for any New England beer tourist include the The Great Lost Bear — a no-frills dive bar with a solid beer menu — and Novare Res Bier Cafe — a hidden beer garden that you’ll likely have a hard time finding.

Related: The Best U.S. Airports for Craft Beer Snobs

#2: Raleigh, North Carolina

North Carolina is home to 125 breweries and brewpubs and that number is growing faster than almost any state in the country. Raleigh in particular has become a hub of the state’s craft beer culture with half a dozen more breweries slated to open in 2015. Mainstays like Avery, Crank Arm, and Big Boss are being joined by stellar nano-brewers like Draft Line Brewing Company and Trophy. Travelers looking to cover a lot of ground in a short time should look to the (utterly ridiculous) Trolley Pub Tour or a no-frills Biking Brew Tour of the city with Oak City Cycling Project.

#3: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Perhaps no American city is more closely tied to the history of brewing than Milwaukee. Schlitz, Old Milwaukee, and Pabst have been macrobrew mainstays of the country’s cookout and yard work scenes practically since Roosevelt was president. But what makes the city so fascinating has been its willingness to adapt and thrive within the burgeoning craft beer scene. Since 1987, Lakefront Brewing has arguably been the city’s flagship microbrewery, but Sprecher and Milwaukee Brewing Company have both been churning out solid brews for the last few decades as well. The city’s beer bar scene has exploded even more in the last 10 years, with the likes of Sugar Maple and Nomad World Pub.

(Photo via Flickr)