I was surprised by the choice of San Diego as top beer town in a recent Men’s Journal feature, The Top Five Beer Towns. Portland came in at a respectable #3, just after New York City and followed by Philadelphia and Chicago – all reasonable choices for a top five beer town list. I’m sure there are some excellent breweries in San Diego, and the climate certainly invites enjoying a cold one. Still, I couldn’t help but think Portland was slighted (and Denver and Seattle, which didn’t even make the list). But certainly, I reminded myself, the writers, Christian DeBenedetti and Seth Fletcher, are entitled to their opinions.
But then, in the writers’ rationalization for putting San Diego at the top of the list, I read this:
The sheer number of breweries (33) blows us away. (It has crept past Portland, which has 29.)
Well I try to keep up on my Portland factoids, and I was pretty sure that Portland still had more breweries than any other city in the world – Beervana and Munich on the Willamette and all. And as I thought about it some more I realized that I could come up with a list of 25+ Portland area brew pubs and breweries I’ve actually patronized myself. I’m sure there are some I was forgetting or maybe hadn’t even heard of. So I checked up on my factoid at the Oregon Brewers Guild website, and I confirmed that yes, Portland, Oregon actually has 30 breweries within the city, still more than any other city in the world.
Men’s Journal provides no source for their claim about San Diego’s number of breweries, but after a little research (i.e. google) I arrived at the suspicion it is a misinterpretation of information from the San Diego Brewers Guild, which states that their city is home to more than 33 brew houses. A quick glance at the publication, A Complete Guide To San Diego Breweries (pdf), however, quickly reveals that only 13 of the 32 breweries listed in the Guide are, as matter of fact, in San Diego proper. The rest are in surrounding suburbs and towns in the metropolitan area. Even Stone Brewing Company, probably the best known San Diego brewery (well, the only one I could think of), is based in Escondido.
The Portland metropolitan area, on the other hand, has 38 breweries – quite a few more than the San Diego area.
The Men’s Journal writers are entitled to their own opinions, but certainly not their own facts. Portland is still Beertown USA, and San Diego, though a fine city with (in all likelihood) some excellent breweries, isn’t even close.