1. Portland, ORThese were followed by the Bay Area, Seattle, Denver, Portland (the Maine one), Milwaukee and Fort Collins.
2. Asheville, NC
3. Philadelphia, PA
4. San Diego, CA
5. St. Louis, MO
Apparently, the battle for first and second, for some inexplicable reason, was close.
I'm a huge fan of North Carolina. My grandma was from there, and therefore most of my favorite culinary treats as a kid. When I barbecue pork shoulder, I douse it in vinegar sauce. I've spent some time there (unfortunately, in Fayetteville), and I want to go back. North Carolina is probably on my list of the top 10 states.
But Asheville as a brewing mecca? Hell, no. Nearly on par with Portland? Hell, no. And Philadelphia? What is that you saaaay?
So here's my list. And since it's a bit unfair to list "the Bay Area", I'm revising the rules to include regions rather than just cities. Also, mass brewers count. A town like Milwaukee may not produce the greatest beer in the world, but that's a beer town, no doubt about it. Let me know if I'm missing anyone.
1. Portland/Bend/Eugene/Oregon Coast (Widmer, Blitz-Weinhard, Deschutes, Bridgetown (correction: Bridgeport. I'm an idiot.), Rogue, Hair of the Dog, Hopworks, Full Sail, Double Mountain, McMenamins, Mt Hood, Bend, Pelican, Siletz, Ninkasi, Amnesia, Roots.)Actually, that's all I've got. Any suggestions for #9 and #10? We've got a fair share of readers in NC...can anyone tell me how they made the list?
2. Denver/Fort Collins/Boulder/Colorado Springs (Coors, New Belgium, Great Divide, Avery, Left Hand, Odell's, Ska, Oskar Blues, Boulder, Flying Dog, Breckinridge.)
3. Bay Area/Northern California (Sierra Nevada, Anchor Steam, Lagunitas, North Coast, Anderson Valley, Mendocina, Bear Republic, Russian River, North Coast, Bison, Speakeasy, Schmaltz)
4. San Diego/Escondido (Stone, Ballast Point, AleSmith, Green Flash, Coronado, Firehouse, Port/Lost Abbey)
5. Milwaukee/Chicago (Miller, Schlitz, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Goose Island, Three Floyds, Flossmoor)
6. Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia (Hamms, Olympia, Dick's, Pyramid, Mac and Jack's, Elysian, Redhook)
7. East Coast* (Sam Adams, Dogfish Head, Allagash, Ommegang, Portsmouth)
8. St. Louis (Anheuser-Busch, Boulevard, Schlafly)
9. Idaho/Eastern Oregon/Montana (Big Sky, Beer Valley, Terminal Gravity, Grand Teton, Montana, Bozeman)
* "East Coast" refers to everything from Maine south to Delaware.
Obviously, there's some west coast leaning here, which is to be expected. But there are also two practical reasons for the west being a dominant brewing culture.
First, the further west you go, the more likely you'll find innovation. To establish identity and compete with major beer regions like the Midwest, England and Germany, western brewers had to think creatively and run over expectations.
Second, the Pacific Northwest is the best hop-growing region in the US, and hops also grow well in Sonoma County. Proximity to beer's most important crop plays a major role.
This is a non-debatable point.