SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — What are the best cities nationwide for beer drinkers?
One fintech company held its eighth annual survey across almost 400 cities to find out. Metrics to make the determinations included counting cities with a population of at least 60,000, at least one brewery and that tracked Numbeo data, the world’s largest cost-of-living database.
READ MORE: Part 1: Almost 100 bars and restaurants opened and closed in 2022
READ MORE: Part 2: Almost 100 bars and restaurants opened and closed in 2022
Two North Carolina cities, including Wilmington, made the top 50. The Port City came in the number 30 spot, while Asheville tracked number five.
SmartAsset, the company behind the survey, pulled the 2021 U.S. Census data for population figures, and the total number of microbreweries and brewpubs in each city from ratebeer.com in November 2022. It also looked at the number of bars overall and the number of breweries per 100,000 residents from the 2020 County Patterns Survey. The average number of beers per brewery and cost of a domestic draft were included in the assessment.
“The city with the best average ranking received an index score of 100, and the city with the worst average ranking received an index score of 0,” the report from SmartAsset noted.
Wilmington has moved up and down the ranks since it started making an appearance on the poll in 2017, when it came in number 19. It then dropped to 35 the following year, moved up to 14 in 2019, 13 in 2020 and dropped back to 32 in 2021.
According to SmartAsset’s public relations manager, Ray Marek, the 15 breweries pulled from ratebeer.com in 2022 were:
- Bill’s Front Porch Pub and Brewery
- Broomtail Craft Brews
- Edward Teach Beer Co.
- Flying Machine Brewing Company
- Flytrap Brewing
- Front Street Brewery
- Ironclad Brewery
- Mad Mole Brewing
- New Anthem Beer Project
- Skytown Beer Company
- Tek Mountain Brewing
- Waterline Brewing Company
- Waterman’s Brewing
- Wilmington Brewing Company
- Wrightsville Beach Brewery
TekMountain Brewing served homemade craft beer to coworking employees of TekMountain and Castle Branch in a small kiosk in the lobby. It wasn’t open to the public as a full-scale brewery and closed during the pandemic.
“The brewery was solely a benefit for the associates and guests of the Castle Branch and Tek Mountain companies,” former brewer Jeff May wrote to Port City Daily. “We would have outreach events where local small businesses would design and brew there own beers with me. It was a blast and I enjoyed working with the people of the parent organization and all the local businesses. I was sad to see it close.”
The survey also still notes Skytown operational, though the brewery changed hands to Catawba Brewing in 2021.
Port City Daily counts roughly 19 breweries are in Wilmington. Omitted from the ratebeer.com data are DrumTrout Brewing Co. in Fulton Station and Bull City Ciderworks in the Cargo District, both of which opened in 2022.
It also doesn’t include Panacea Brewing, which opened in 2017 but didn’t begin selling hard boocha until two years ago, the same year Hi-Wire Brewing opened, also not featured in the data.
“We understand that this metric on the total number of breweries is constantly changing, and do our best to gather the most updated numbers,” Marek said.
The number of brew houses is going up in 2023 in Wilmington as well. Ponysaurus Brewing has plans to open on Market Street in downtown Wilmington. It was supposed to launch in 2022 but has experienced delays. A Ponysaurus rep didn’t confirm with Port City Daily by press the timeline it will open.
The Durham-founded craft brewery began in 2013 and has been revered for its specialized American and European-style beers. It won two first-place gold medals and one second-place silver medal in the NC Craft Brewers Guild 2022 Industry Awards.
The brewery and pizzeria will be located in the historic district in a former attorney’s office, next door to Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens at 214 Market St. There will be seating indoors and outdoors in terraced gardens, complete with fire pits.
The number of breweries in the Wilmington area for 2022’s SmartAsset survey worked out to approximately 12.8 per 100,000 residents, with 40 average beers per brewery. The mean cost of Wilmington pints clock in around $5 — a higher price point than the average surveyed beers, roughly $4.68.
The craft beer industry brings in big tourism dollars for cities nationwide. Beer Serves America — a nonprofit that does an economic impact study commissioned by the Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesalers Association every two years — shows an economic impact of $331 billion dollars annually and the creation of two million jobs. It goes beyond the food and beverage industry and adds to manufacturing, agriculture, distribution and retailer positions.
In 2021, the U.S. produced 81% of all beer and imported only 19% from other countries, SmartAsset reported.
The top city ranked on the annual survey was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with 33 breweries averaging a $4 pint at around 11 locations per 100,000 residents.
However, Chicago held out for the most breweries overall at 103, equal to 3.8 per 100,000 residents.
The top three beer cities remain unchanged from 2021, including Bend, Oregon, and Milwaukee. Eight of the top 10 have held steady on the survey since its inception as well.
Other cities in SmartAsset’s top 10 include St. Louis, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Fort Collins, Austin, and Missoula.
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