Missoula, Billings among nation’s “Best Cities for Beer Drinkers”

Missoula and Billings ranked among the nation’s top 10 best cities for beer drinkers in latest Smart Assets study. (Photo courtesy of Smart Assets)

By Martin Kidston

Do you believe in beer heaven? If so, Montana is the place for you.

Missoula and Billings in particular.

The Garden City edged its way into the latest top 10 list for “The Best Cities for Beer Drinkers” in 2016. Released this week by Smart Assets, the rankings place Missoula at No. 10, just behind the only other Montana city to make the cut, that being Billings.

Yet the two cities broke into the top 10 for different reasons. In Billings, “beer lovers will have a wide variety of bars to choose from,” while Missoula has “some of the best breweries in the country.”

According to Destination Missoula, the city is home to Draught Works, Bayern Brewing, Kettlehouse Brewing Co., Great Burn Brewing, Big Sky Brewing Co., Flathead Lake Brewing Co., Missoula Brewing Co. and Tamarack Brewing,

“The average Yelp rating for a Missoula brewery is 4.3,” the study suggests. “Beer lovers coming to Missoula for the first time should check out the Draught Works Brewery. It has won multiple awards in the Great American Beer Festival, including a gold medal in the American-style strong pale ale category.”

To determine the rankings, the study considered several metrics, including the number of microbreweries per city, the number of microbreweries per 100,000 residents, and the number of bars per 100,000 residents.

It also looked at the average Yelp score of breweries, along with the average price of a pint in each city. In Missoula, the average pint sells for $3.50, while in Billings beer drinkers pay $3 on average.

“Our data shows that Billings has 35 bars per 100,000 residents,” the rankings state. “That’s the second-highest rate in the top 10. Billings only has seven total microbreweries, which is the second-lowest in the top 10. But relative to population, it’s still a fairly large number. Billings has 6.35 microbreweries per 100,000 residents.”

Asheville, North Carolina ranked first on this year’s list, knocking off Portland, Maine, which ranked second. Asheville claims the most microbreweries per 100,000 residents at 27.12 and is home to a number of annual beer festivals.

In comparison, the study suggests Missoula has 8.4 microbreweries per 100,000 residents and 35.7 bars. It shared the top 10 rankings with Asheville; Portland, Maine; Pittsburgh; Cincinnati; Portland, Oregon; Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Wilmington, North Carolina; and Billings.

Since 2000, the number of breweries in America has tripled, according to the Brewers Association.

“This growth in breweries is great news for beer drinkers across the country, no matter where they live,” the study claims. “Montana, North Carolina and Ohio are the three states that appear twice in our top 10. Considering the population size of Montana, it’s quite a feat that two of its cities made the cut.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com