Travel + Leisure Chooses The Best American Beer Cities

Travel + Leisure magazine, in their July 2011 issue, made their picks for America’s Best Beer Cities. Actually, the title is a bit misleading. It’s not really the “best” cities so much as the most “popular;” and most popular according to the magazine’s readers; and not all of their readers but specifically the ones who took the time to answer the poll. Looking more closely, the readers polled were asked to choose among 35 pre-chosen cities, too, meaning there was no chance for any town not on the starting list, too. Asheville, NC, for example, was presumably not among the 35 cities on Travel + Leisure’s list.

So that’s a very different thing and probably accounts for what I can only describe as some odd, but interesting, inconsistencies with other similar polls. Certainly Portland deserves the top spot, though it probably goes without saying I’d place San Francisco a tad higher than ninth. But Philly fourth from the cellar — along with San Diego even lower? — that seems like a travesty.

It does, however, tell us how people who like travel enough to subscribe to a periodical devoted to it perceive which cities are best for beer. Undoubtedly, many people voted for their local city so in a sense it’s partly a reflection of the magazine’s geographic readership. But that probably doesn’t tell the whole story. When asked to rank 35 cities, most people (apart from the very well traveled) I’d wager have not been to all of the cities. That would mean they’d be inclined to go with what they’d heard or read about the cities they hadn’t personally visited. They’d make a value judgment based on that particular city’s perception of beer-worthiness. Seen through that prism, it’s a more interesting list, to me at least. It also means I need to visit Savannah. What’s your take on the list?

Travel + Leisure’s 2011 Poll: America’s Best Beer Cities

  1. Portland, OR
  2. Denver, CO
  3. Seattle, WA
  4. Providence, RI
  5. Portland, ME
  6. Savannah, GA
  7. Boston, MA
  8. Austin, TX
  9. San Francisco, CA
  10. Nashville, TN
  11. Kansas City, MO
  12. Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  13. Charleston, SC
  14. Chicago, IL
  15. Anchorage, AK
  16. New Orleans, LA
  17. Philadelphia, PA
  18. San Diego, CA
  19. Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ
  20. Houston, TX


  1. BikerAggie says

    Wow. Houston is a terrible beer city, I should know I live here. It is getting better, but I do not see any way it should be in the top 20.

  2. Shooter says

    Some of these cities might be nice places to visit, but I don’t associate them with beer in any way. I’m not putting much stock in this list!

  3. luna says

    i wondered about asheville when i read the list. we’re planning a little trip to asheville next month and i feel like we should be planning to stay longer than 3.5 days!

  4. Rich says

    Living in Providence, I can’t understand why they consider this a great beer city (I mean #4 really?). We have a decent brewpub in Trinity, and another chain one with Union Station Brewhouse (part of the John Harvard family). But, that’s it. There are only a handful of places to get any good beer here also (and a number of those are outside the city itself). Weird choice in my opinion.

  5. Chuck says

    It’s nice to see Phoenix show up on any list associated with good beer. We are really growing a nice beer culture here with an increasing number of good local breweries as well as an ever expanding craft tap handle count. So far, very few craft handles have gone back to domestic so that is a good thing. And we have over 250 new craft handles scheduled to open in the next 9 months.
    That said, it would be nice if this list was a little more in tune with reality as seen by most serious beer drinkers. For Philly and San Diego to be as low as they are is a little strange. While I think New Orleans has a growing craft culture they are not ready to be ahead of these two cities.

  6. says

    The list does seem a little off. I’ve traveled to New Orleans and Philadelphia and did not see anything that would put them on this list. There’s only one Brewpub in NOLA and it’s kind of a tourist location. Abita is across the causeway.

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