Seattle no longer has the most breweries of any city in America


Chicago replaces Seattle as the city with the most breweries in America. Wait a minute. What?

It was a matter of some heated discussion last May when I published the news that Seattle had more breweries than any other city in America (see that story). I didn’t make it up. It was not fake news. The information, based on real data provided by a totally unconcerned, third-party data analytics firm, was met with the expected skepticism. People in Seattle, including many local beer lovers, just cannot bring themselves to admit that Seattle is cool.

According to some, regardless of what those numbers proved, Seattle is not nearly so cool as someplace else, where the grass is always greener, the beer is always cheaper, and the breweries are way, way better than our local breweries. I myself am guilty of it sometimes. Self-loathing, it’s a Seattle thing. You wouldn’t understand.

Well, Seattle-haters can breath a sigh of relief and complain about something else. There is a new report showing that Seattle is not the top city in terms of the number of breweries. Seattle does not have the most breweries. Some people will be upset that Portland is not the new champion and will decry this as fake news regardless of the source and veracity of the information, ignoring what it is that the report is actually intended to reveal. Portland-envy, it’s a Seattle thing. You wouldn’t understand.

Chicago tops this new list, with more breweries than any other city in America. Again, I’m not making this up. It’s based on real data compiled by a real data analyst that has no interest in who tops the list. In this case, the info comes from the Brewers Association. If we cannot trust them, who can we trust?

The big change compared to the list I publicized last spring is that this one is based on a different interpretation of “urban area.” The data I reported back in May was based on Metropolitan Statistical Areas. This study is based on a different interpretation of what constitutes the Great Seattle Area, the Greater Portland Area, or however you want to say it.

Last spring, according to the data analysts at Datafiniti, Seattle was home to 173 breweries. According to the rankings just released by the Brewers Association, the Seattle area is now home to just 153. Unless you’ve been huffing glue, you realize that there are more breweries around here now than there were back in May. So, ya, to some degree it is about how you define the terms.

The conclusions that this study draws depend on how two key factors are interpreted: what is a brewery and what constitutes the Seattle area. As President Bill Clinton famously said, “It depends on what your definition of is is.”

So, according to this new information shared by the Brewers Association (an organization I trust) Chicago leads the way with 173 breweries, which I think is really cool, actually. Most of the other top beer cities are not surprising, but Chicago is not so widely recognized as a great beer town. Truth is, Chicago has a kickass beer scene that deserves accolades.

Here’s how it broke down according to Bart Watson, the chief economist for the Brewers Association. Remember, this has nothing to do with breweries per capita. Check out this cool interactive map.

  1. Chicago – 173
  2. Denver – 158
  3. Seattle – 153
  4. San Diego – 150
  5. Los Angeles – 146
  6. New York – 141
  7. Portland – 139
  8. Philadelphia – 113

Obviously, it is not a surprise that New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago made the list. Those are the three largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country. It’s more impressive that Seattle, Denver, and Portland made the list. Those three cities rank 15th, 19th and 25th, respectively.

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