ALEHEADS ATLAS

A fellow Alehead recently asked which state in the Union would be the ideal locale for a beer snob such as himself. Obviously, when choosing a home state, there are many more factors to consider other than “how easy is it to procure high-quality beer? (for instance, “how easy is it to procure high-quality bourbon?”). Nevertheless, the question piqued my interest. I suppose the easiest answer (thus the one I’m choosing), is to determine which state has the most breweries per capita. This certainly doesn’t tell you how good the local breweries are…maybe they’re all horseshit…but it gives you an idea of the dedication to beer culture in each state. A small state with a ton of breweries is probably well populated with Aleheads. A large state with just a handful of breweries…not so much. Granted, this kind of study will probably skew towards smaller states (since per capita numbers drop quickly when the total population is low). But what do you want from me…it’s a free blog. And, as always, you get what you pay for.

Fortunately for my lazy ass, the work was already done for me on numerous beer sites. Sure, you could Googlefy it or Bingaling it yourself, but you’re already here, so why bother. A few comments before the overall numbers:

The Top 10 include two New England states (Vermont at #1 and Maine at #4), all three Pacific Northwest States (Oregon at #2, Alaska at #5, Washington at #8), four Mountain West states (Montana at #3, Colorado at #6, Wyoming at #7, and Idaho at #10), plus Wisconsin at #9. So the “best” state for an Alehead to live in depends on which part of the country you prefer. As an ex-New Englander who desperately misses the ocean and lobster, Maine would be high on my list (and while Vermont tops the entire list, it also has the 2nd lowest total population which skews the per capita number…Maine has nearly double the amount of breweries as VT). If you’re a ski-bum and mountain lover, Colorado is probably your choice since it has more breweries overall than any other state in the Top 10 except Washington.

In truth, you could make an argument for any of the Top 10…plus you have to throw California into the mix since it has more than twice as many breweries than any other state (per capita it’s just #18, but that’s due to its massive population).

But you don’t come to Aleheads.com for dithering…you come for answers. So the answer is: Oregon. Plain and simple. Per capita, it’s only slightly behind Vermont for the #1 spot, but it has almost 6 times as many breweries as the Green Mountain state. Its combination of breweries/brewpubs per Oregonian plus overall variety is simply unmatched. Hell, the city of Portland (aka Beertown, USA) has 32 breweries alone. Throw in some of the most well-respected ale factories in the world (Rogue, Deschutes, Hair of the Dog, Ninkasi, Double Mountain) and you’ve got yourself a true Alehead Haven. So here’s to the Beaver State. Your nickname may be a euphemism for a woman’s naughty parts, but you’re a shining Beer Beacon to the rest of the nation.*

*It should go without saying that my current home state of Alabama is a solid second to last in the rankings. As in everything else, the only state we beat out is Mississippi. Why do I live here? Who the fuck knows…

Here’s the full chart:

2009 RANK 2008 RANK STATE BREWERIES/ BREWPUBS 2009 POPULATION PER CAPITA
1 1 Vermont 17 621,760 36,574
2 3 Oregon 101 3,825,657 37,878
3 2 Montana 25 974,989 39,000
4 4 Maine 33 1,318,301 39,949
5 5 Alaska 15 698,473 46,565
6 6 Colorado 104 5,024,748 48,315
7 7 Wyoming 10 544,270 54,427
8 8 Washington 113 6,664,195 58,975
9 9 Wisconsin 80 5,654,774 70,685
10 10 Idaho 21 1,545,801 73,610
11 15 Delaware 10 885,122 88,512
12 11 New Hampshire 14 1,324,575 94,613
13 12 Nebraska 16 1,796,619 112,289
14 13 New Mexico 16 2,009,671 125,604
15 17 Michigan 77 9,969,727 129,477
16 16 Hawaii 9 1,295,178 143,909
17 20 Iowa 20 3,007,856 150,393
18 18 California 238 36,961,664 155,301
19 14 Nevada 17 2,643,085 155,476
20 27 Indiana 41 6,423,113 156,661
21 19 Massachusetts 42 6,593,587 156,990
22 25 Missouri 38 5,987,580 157,568
23 21 South Dakota 5 812,383 162,477
24 23 Utah 17 2,784,572 163,798
25 22 Pennsylvania 75 12,604,767 168,064
26 26 Arizona 35 6,595,778 188,451
27 32 North Carolina 49 9,380,884 191,447
28 28 Minnesota 27 5,266,214 195,045
29 29 DC 3 599,657 199,886
30 24 Kansas 14 2,818,747 201,339
31 31 Rhode Island 5 1,053,209 210,642
32 34 Maryland 27 5,699,478 211,092
33 30 Connecticut 16 3,518,288 219,893
34 33 Virginia 32 7,882,590 246,331
35 36 Ohio 44 11,542,645 262,333
36 37 Illinois 45 12,910,409 286,898
37 44 West Virginia 6 1,819,777 303,296
38 38 New York 63 19,541,453 310,182
39 35 South Carolina 14 4,561,242 325,803
40 39 Oklahoma 10 3,687,050 368,705
41 43 Tennessee 17 6,296,254 370,368
42 40 New Jersey 20 8,707,739 435,387
43 41 Florida 41 18,537,969 452,146
44 42 Louisiana 9 4,492,076 499,120
45 49 Georgia 16 9,829,211 614,326
46 48 Texas 39 24,782,302 635,444
47 47 North Dakota 1 646,844 646,844
48 46 Kentucky 6 4,314,113 719,019
49 45 Arkansas 4 2,889,450 722,363
50 50 Alabama 4 4,708,708 1,177,177
51 51 Mississippi 1 2,951,996 2,951,996

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8 comments

  1. Sweeney · · Reply

    Sadly, Brother Barley is correct that Oregon is the best state for an Alehead (over WA). Particularly if you do not have a job since OR has an income tax whereas WA does not. On the other hand, as a neighboring state, I get all their hard labor plus I do not have to deal with the absurd politics of OR. Cheers!

  2. Washington is, of course, an excellent dwelling-place for any serious Alehead. I give Oregon the edge for three reasons:

    1. While WA has a dozen more breweries than OR, it also has close to 60% more people. So the ratio of ale factories to citizens is heavily in Oregon’s favor (much like choosing a school with a better faculty/student ratio…although in this case, the “faculty” is “beer”).
    2. Washington is heavily populated with long-haired weirdos who are still living in the 90’s waiting for grunge to make a comeback. To paraphrase Rick Pitino, “Kurt Cobain isn’t walking through that door. Layne Staley isn’t walking through that door. Chris Cornell isn’t…hey, Chris! What are you still doing here?!”
    3. Washington is closer to Canada.

  3. […] brewery/brewpub laws in the country. Craft brewing is big business these days and Alabama is woefully behind every other state (except good ol’ Mississippi which always brings up the rear). The bill would have allowed […]

  4. […] them New Yorkers, but that can’t be right, can it?).  Lastly, Maine has one brewery for every 40,000 people, which ranks the state #4 nationally.  I’ve had plenty of Maine brews in the past, mostly from Allagash and Shipyard, but to get […]

  5. […] San Francisco, Boston, or Seattle. But in Birmingham, Alabama…the largest city in the second most beer-starved state in the country? Well, then it’s a big goddamn […]

  6. […] in its literal sense to mean “biggest”. The Golden State simply has more breweries than any other state…more than double the number two state, Washington. I suppose that shouldn’t come as […]

  7. Just a quick note: North Dakota has no breweries.

    The only thing brewery-like is a “Granite City.” It’s a chain restaurant that doesn’t brew. The wort is made out-of-state (Nebraska, I think) and trucked in to be fermented. No grain, no kettle, no hops, no brewers, just fermentors and a guy with a bucket of yeast.

    That said, I think you can rank North Dakota as the worst in the nation.

    In the coming year or two, though, we’ll have three (or more, maybe) breweries opening; two packaging and a brewpub.

    It’s bad now but the future’s looking better.

  8. Thanks for the illumination, Tyler. North Dakota rates higher than it should on the list because of its small population, but it sounds like it should indeed be dead last. I find that extremely odd since North Dakota is the barley-growing capital of the US. Based strictly on proximity of raw materials, North Dakota should be a force in the brewing industry.

    Glad to hear that things are looking up in the Peace Garden State (yes, I had to look up that nickname…I have no idea what it means). Please share some tasting notes with us when your local ale factories finally start selling their wares!

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