How Thomas Kemper Brewing Helped Determine the Best Beer City in America

Does anyone remember Thomas Kemper Brewing? Apparently so. It just helped determine America’s “best beer city.”

Yesterday released a list of The Best Cities for Beer Drinkers. I share the list below. Such Best Of lists are always based on one of two things: the author’s opinions and experiences, or empirical evidence. I enjoy reading both kinds of lists. The former I find entertaining and the latter I find informative.

Best Of lists and Top Ten lists are clickbait. Lord knows, I’d understand that as well as anyone. Funny thing about clickbait, the only reason it works is because it works. We all love to look at these kinds of lists and weigh them against our own perceptions, though that often takes the shape of telling the list producer that they are an under-informed troglodyte.

Here’s the list of best beer cities in America according to SmartAsset:

  1. Portland, Maine
  2. Asheville, North Carolina
  3. Portland, Oregon
  4. Billings, Montana
  5. Denver, Colorado
  6. Seattle, Washington
  7. Wilmington, North Carolina
  8. Missoula, Montana
  9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  10. Cincinnati, Ohio

SmartAsset used a few key types of data for the largest 296 cities in America to establish their rankings.

  • The number of breweries and brewpubs in each city.
  • The number of breweries and brewpubs per capita in each city.
  • Average Yelp scores for those breweries/brewpubs.
  • Number of bars in a city per 1,000 residents.
  • Average cost of a pint of domestic beer in each city.

I don’t mean for this to be a slam on I really don’t. However, I do want to point out some things. Consider this an example of why you shouldn’t get your boxers in a knot every time some organization or person releases such a list and fails to give your hometown the respect that it’s due.

I give them credit for exposing their methodology. SmartAsset used brewery data from to determine the number of microbreweries and brewpubs in each city. I just looked at that data. I won’t go into detail but’s data is a mess. Thomas Kemper Brewing no longer exists, for instance. Seriously? They’ve been history for decades. Baron Brewing is also on the list. Meanwhile, other breweries that actually do exist are not. There are other glaring flaws. See their list of Seattle breweries here. Ouch.

I point this out because it seems the info from was instrumental in establishing these rankings.

The breweries/brewpubs per capita data was, apparently, established by weighing the first data set against population numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. I’m sure at least half of that equation is valid.

Data on the number of bars in each city also came from the U.S. Census Bureau. I am assuming it means all bars and not just those that actually serve good beer, or beer at all.

Yelp scores. Really? Yelp scores.

The price of a pint of “domestic beer” in each city. They did not define the term domestic beer. They otherwise use the terms microbrewery and brewpub, so we are probably safe in assuming that when they say “domestic” they mean Bud Light, Coors Light, PBR, and so on. I guess?

Like I said, I’m not picking on I’m just trying to make a point. There is nothing absolute about any of these lists, even when they are data-based and appear empirical. These things are intended to be fun. Consider such lists conversation starters. Do not consider them to be definitive. And for crying out loud, do not consider this list to be an indictment on your hometown.

Thomas Kemper Brewing. Really?




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One comment

  1. I do wax nostalgic over the old Thomas Kemper beer, for it was one of the few beers distributed to Bozeman MT from the PNW back in the late 90’s; say what you may, but TK did have good beer bottle labels. I actually wish they were still around to see what would have become of them, had history went down a different path. Chuckanut probably doesn’t own the recipes or artwork due to all the convoluted owners of all things TK. I do raise a glass for memories, though…
    If I was you, I would have started with the word, Billings? Geessh…Bozeman/Livingston? Of course…But Billings? No brewery in Billings will ever find distribution to the state of WA…for goodness sakes…

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