Beer has been quenching humanity’s thirst for thousands of years. There is solid proof of beer production in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia dating back to at least the fifth millennium B.C. Today, it's a 500 billion dollar a year industry and though it’s still dominated by a handful of big multinational macro-breweries, much of the industry's growth in recent years has come from smaller craft beer brewers who are expected to capture 20% of the market by 2020.
Craft brewing is the off-spring of the micro brewing movement that swept across Europe and North America during the 1970’s, 80's and 90's. By the turn of the century, demand at many of the more popular small breweries exceeded imposed production limits and the term "microbrewery" fell out of favor. At the same time, innovative and creative master brewers were responding to growing consumer demands for crafted, rather than manufactured beers, and before long, the craft beer movement was born.
Today there are more than 10,000 breweries worldwide and new facilities are opening at the rate of two to three per day. Craft beer has a loyal following and beer lover's flock to the cities and regions known for award-winning craft brews by the thousands each year to sample the very best. With that in mind, let’s count down our list of the top five craft beer destinations.
Montreal has been at the center of Canada's craft beer revolution for over 25 years. The Mondial de la Biere, one of the most important and prestigious international beer festivals on the planet, takes place here each year. Montreal is known for its concentration of breweries, brewpubs and craft beer bars, with several dozen within walking distance or a quick cab ride of one another. Perhaps its best known is Brasserie Dieu du Ciel, considered one of the top brew pubs in the world.
Beer tourism is also booming in Boston and one could argue that the American craft beer explosion actually began there in 1984 when Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company, introduced Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Named after Boston's founding father, who was himself a brew master, more than 30 years later Samuel Adams Boston Lager is still the top selling craft beer in the country. Boston's list of breweries has experienced tremendous growth since then, and it's no wonder. Prior to prohibition, the city had the highest number of breweries per capita in the U.S.
Denver, Colorado is another popular destination for beer lovers. The Mile High City has a history rich in beer making and each year plays host to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), the premier beer festival and beer competition venue in the U.S. More than 35,000 beer lovers flocked to the festival in 2015 to sample the 3,500 or so craft beers competing for the industry's most coveted medals. Denver also lays claim to at least 100 craft breweries and brewpubs, many of them GABF winners.
Portland, Oregon is a pioneer in the craft beer movement. Portland's craft beer scene began in 1984 with the opening of two small breweries in what is known today as its Pearl District, and others soon followed. Referred to as "Beervana,” Portland's metropolitan area is now home to more than 100 breweries and brewpubs. Portlanders have an infatuation with craft beer and the city hosts dozens of beer festivals each year.
Belgium is widely regarded as the beer capital of the world and a trip to Brussels, its capital city, is for many the crème de la crème of beer excursions. In Belgium, beer is a culture and there are over 450 varieties to choose from. The best way to sample them is at the Brussels Beer Weekend, an impressive beer fest organized by the Federation of Belgium Brewers that takes place in Brussels each September.
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