Men’s Journal gets its Best Beer Town facts wrongs and slights Portland

mj_cover100I 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.


  1. Ka POW! Take THAT, San Diego!

  2. Heather – I prefer to think of it as “Ka POW! Take THAT, Men’s Journal!”

  3. So…that means Portland has over 5 times the breweries, per capita, of San Diego. Don’t know about the beer, but it is looking like there might be more crack dealers in the Men’s Journal neighborhood than anywhere else.

  4. Having lived for 12 years in San Diego and 6 in Portland I can confirm that this is beyond ridiculous. SD has a lot more sun in January, but when it comes to breweries it’s not even close.

    The SD brewers guild covers all of San Diego county. Using that geographic criteria Portland could include Hood River, Salem and the coast. That would probably get the number of breweries here closer to 70. They are counting Karl Strauss (terrible metalic-tasting beer) 5 times, Pizza Port (good beer and pizza) twice, and including out of town distributors (Rock bottom and Gordon Biersch) to get to that 32 number.

    I wish there was an ounce of truth to this article as I may find myself living in San Diego again one day. In the meantime, anyone visiting SD should go to Pizza Port and then try and find a bar that serves Stone ales. Stone makes great beer but Escondido is vile and a very, very long drive.

  5. We are discussing a publication that has “Into the Zombie Underworld” as one of its ‘features’.

    Yes, I know it’s a little ironic for me to be making fun of someone for liking zombies, but I at least know how to fact-check (Fun Fact: Zombies aren’t real!)

  6. KimJSCP, Sherwood – Yeah, it’s really baffling they got the statistics so wrong. I don’t expect much (or really anything, since I’m not a reader) from Men’s Journal, but basic fact checking would be nice.

    Mary Sue – I hear you. I only stumbled upon the article via my occasional “portland +beer” google search. But once I read it, I couldn’t stand not correcting it!

  7. The writers confused San Diego City with San Diego County. The county has over 30 breweries. This is not to slight San Diego’s beer culture, they have made huge strides to develope a very strong beer community over the last 10 years. Portland’s numbers are restricted to the city limits and are well beyond reach of most other beer towns. No one can, or really wants to steal Portlands well deserved thunder as beervana, this is not the beer-way. A rising tide raises all boats. Lets hope craft beer consumption and appreciation rises in every American city, town, and village…can I get an AMEN from the choir?

  8. Banjo – AMEN! 😉

  9. As a proud San Diegan and beer fan, I can only say…too bad about the Men’s Journal list. As a resident of SD County, I certainly know that Stone is the pride of our beer-culture, but I also know its way too far to drive from where I live (Santee) on a regular basis. Cheers to Portland, a town I look forward to visiting again, and amen to Banjo.

  10. MateoSantaigo says:

    First, Amen Banjo.

    Second, I look forward to visiting Portland. But as a local San Dieagan, where else can you go Snowboarding in a blizzard of a morning with a locally brewed coffee porter or breakfast stout, and Surfing in the afternoon in 70+ F temp with another locally brewed IIPA or Lager? I know that doesn’t exactly correlate to “beer culture”, but seeing as ours is a newer culture- we have less of a reputation to live up to. Look at Lost Abbey for an example- rosemary, raisins, black currants? WTF? Crazy good delicious yes, traditional NO.

    All that being said, I’d say that It’s more of a tie between the two cities rather than one is better than the other. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. As brew towns, but basing it off of sheer number of breweries is a fallacy.

    In Conclusion:
    Maybe the authors of MJ went down to TJ and got a BJ while writing their list.

  11. PDXLovesBeer says:

    PDXers bleed brew. Not only do we have much higher per capita brewhouses than San Diego, which is a much better measure than the also higher total number, and you can ask just about anyone on the street where a good brewpub is, but the Portland International Brewfest and The Oregon Brewer’s Festival should put PDX over the top.

  12. gal4giants says:

    lowering/lower expectations/standards isn’t a good argument. I think San Diego metro does deserve props but really does Men’s Journal really have big client base? I most likely am an idiot & the answer is yes.

    Most who care do know that Portland is beervana, shame on mj for not stating this fact but many are now coming out of the closets & showing that beer doesn’t only come with crazy ibus ….giving even more props to pdx.

  13. 21 Mcmenamins in Portland metro? Really?

  14. SDBeerFan –

    Looks like 23 in metro area –
    And 17 in Portland proper –

  15. i don’t think the sheer number of breweries is the crux of the article. who the hell cares about quantity?? everyone knows that Portland and it’s surrounding areas have long since been a beer mecca. it’s common knowledge. (and frankly i’m surprised that you’re not more upset that portland trailed NY on the list)

    but the fact remains that in recent years SD has pulled away from the pack as far excellence in craft beer production.

    with wins that include small brewery of the year, 2007: The Lost Abbey, and
    large brewpub of the year 2009: Pizza Port Carlsbad at the Great American Beer Festival, san diego is proving to the rest of the country that it is a major player in the beer game.
    in fact, if SD county had entered the competition as a state, it would have placed fourth overall. only Colorado(45), California(39)(including SD county’s 14), and Oregon(22) scored more medals.

    if Men’s Journal got their facts wrong on the sheer numbers, then shame on them. but more importantly, if Stone brewery is “the only one” you could think of, i STRONGLY suggest a trip to SD to see what you are missing. the stuff coming out of there is phenomenal, and diverse(to the folks who think all they do is potent IPA’s, you are mistaken).

    but don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. the weather is always warm and the beer is always cold.
    i recommend The Lost Abbey, Pizza Ports: Carlsbad, San Clemente, or Solana Beach, Stone, Greenflash, AleSmith, and Mission, to name a few.


  16. +1 on san diego. I agree with the notion of men’s journal and of the commenter above. There are some very innovative and groundbreaking brewing coming out of here.
    To continue the list above: coronado brewing company, ballast point, the bruery, airdale, port ocean beach, lagunitas….

  17. as Native San Diegan, and a former Portland resident, I too, was a bit blown away by San Diego’s ranking (in fact, kind of sheepish). But I have to say, SD does have some great beer here. San Diego tends to like “hoppy beer” and pale ales; not my favorite. I think because of our nice weather, it makes sense. Me, I like lagers. Also places like Blind Lady Alehouse is a welcome addition to the beer scene. The thing I miss about PDX is the pubs!! San Diego is more bar-ish, and it bugs. More beach oriented…it’s annoying. I’m probably the only native here who could care less about the beach and ocean.

    But quantity doesn’t trump quality.

  18. I thought Portland is a tiny village. When did it become a town?

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