#3. San Diego

A wave of craft and home brewers hit San Diego, CA, in the mid ’90s, refining local palates and priming the city for a beer renaissance. A robust porter called Makanudo, from the small brewpub Cervecerias La Cruda, picked up a gold medal at the 1996 Great American Beer Festival, bringing serious national attention to San Diego’s blossoming beer scene. One visit and it’s easy to see why San Diego is one of the best beer cities.

Today, San Diego is known for creating new styles of beer, including the extremely hoppy San Diego Pale Ale, or Double IPA. The city is surrounded by more than 80 breweries and brewpubs, and several more are on the way. San Diego scored the highest in beer consumption out of the cities on this list. Beer drinkers here overwhelmingly prefer premium, craft brews and drink beer more frequently than the average American. Perhaps the only knock San Diego took in our ranking of the best beer cities is that its breweries are spaced out, requiring transportation to string together a tour of more than five or six in one day. But then again, many of San Diego’s breweries are set up so that guests stay awhile.

But local brews can be found on tap at most restaurants in San Diego and stores keep ample stock. Pizza Port Brewing Company, in nearby Carlsbad, was one of the area’s first craft brewers. Stone Brewing Co., perhaps best known for its Arrogant Bastard Ale and 22-ounce bottles, recently opened the World Bistro and Gardens, a 23,500-square-foot indoor/outdoor venue featuring 40 taps and 100 bottled beers. Hamilton’s Tavern has been a church for craft beer lovers, serving beer and wine for more than 75 years. This cozy tavern has 28 taps, two cask beer engines and a variety of bottles at the ready.

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