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Here Are the 10 Best Cities to Find Good Jobs in the Craft Beer Industry
If you love beer, working in the brewing industry isn’t just a delicious career decision, it’s a smart financial one.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people employed by U.S. breweries has more than doubled in the past decade, with a whopping 69,359 people making their living in beer-industry jobs in 2017. Similarly, the number of breweries in the U.S. has exploded over the past seven years and shows no signs of slowing. According to a report released by the Brewers Association, in 2017 the number of operating breweries in the U.S. reached 6,372, a 16% increase from the prior year.
Ready to hop into the thriving beer industry? Several unexpected places are emerging as brewing hot spots, offering jobs in production, sales and marketing, hospitality or operations. Perhaps most importantly, these 10 cities aren’t just great places to work in brewing, they’re great places to live.
Well drink to that. By the way, this list is not ranked.
1. Bend, Oregon
This scenic, beer-centric town boasts the highest number of microbreweries per capita in the nation. From skiing at Mt. Bachelor to rock climbing at Smith Rock to whitewater rafting on the Deschutes River, if you love the idea of spending your downtime in the great outdoors before heading to work at one of 26 local breweries, Bend might be the perfect place for you.
In 1988, Deschutes Brewery opened up as Bend’s first brewery. Bend Brewing Company, Cascade Lakes Brewery and Silver Moon Brewing would later follow, along with many others. With an economy primarily dependent on tourism and a wide array of breweries, a quick look at local employment sites reveals a multitude of job openings in Bend’s local beer industry.
2. Asheville, North Carolina
Located in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is known for its colorful music and arts scene and high concentration of niche brewers. It’s no surprise that Asheville is one of the 10 most popular cities for beer travelers, according to a 2017 report released by Foursquare. With a tourism-based economy, the city holds numerous events to celebrate its beloved beverage. Visitors enjoy the Brewgrass Festival, Beer City Festival, and Asheville Beer Week, to name a few.
The stunning juxtaposition of the vibrant urban setting and lush surrounding wilderness make Asheville perfect for the outdoor lover looking to brew. Leisure and hospitality make up 43.8% of the city’s total employment, and approximately 2,500 jobs are part of the brewing sector. With 35 breweries, jobs in the industry are plentiful and range from marketing to brewing to bartending.
3. Grand Rapids, Michigan
With a population of approximately 196,000, this riverfront city located on the Grand River east of Lake Michigan was once known as the Furniture City. In more recent years, it has made a name for itself as a beer destination. Declared one of the Best Beer Cities by Livability.com, the city features the Grand Rapids Beer City Trail, which boasts more than 80 brewers.
Combining beer with the local music and art scene, Grand Rapids offers the friendly, creative culture most beer aficionados dream of. If working as a brew tour guide, event coordinator, beverage steward or lead brewer sounds like a dream come true, head to Grand Rapids for a promising start.
4. Baltimore, Maryland
Packed with historic neighborhoods, museums and award-winning restaurants, Baltimore is an evolving harbor city. Despite its share of struggles, the city’s beer industry is rapidly growing. In just 10 years, it went from having under a dozen breweries to over 70.
Named one of the top five fastest growing markets in the country for craft beer sales in 2016, Baltimore is home to favorites like Flying Dog Brewery and DuClaw Brewing Co. During the same year, the Maryland craft beer industry created 6,441 jobs, making the area worth a close look for those looking to break into brewing.
5. Fort Collins, Colorado
Home to Colorado State University, half of Fort Collins’ population is under the age of 24, and they value their suds. Located in northern Colorado, this youthful town pulls its weight in the state’s beer industry. With over 20 breweries, it produces 70% of the state’s craft beer.
Even with its 300 days of sunshine and easy access to the beautiful Colorado wilderness, Fort Collins’ robust brewery scene stands out as one of the top reasons to move there. The city produces award-winning brews, like Funkwerks’ Oud Bruin, which was awarded a gold medal at the World Beer Cup — a biennial competition where 2,515 breweries from 66 countries compete.
6. Birmingham, Alabama
Once an industrial town, Birmingham now leads the nation in craft beer market share growth, making this Alabama city a perfect place for those looking to work in the beer industry while enjoying a laid-back Southern lifestyle.
Downtown Birmingham is experiencing a renaissance centered around the food and beverage industry. Breweries like Avondale Brewing have played a big role in the city’s revitalization and success. Alabama has gone from having two breweries just eight years ago to approximately 30 today — several of which are located in or near Birmingham. This location is perfect for the eager entrepreneur or the novice brewer who wants to play a part in the city’s rebirth as a national beer hub.
7. Anchorage, Alaska
If you are looking for a state that makes big business out of craft beer, Alaska is your ideal home. It ranks No. 3 among states for gallons consumed per capita and seventh in breweries per capita. The beer industry contributed almost $36 million in wages and over 1,250 jobs to the Alaska economy in 2017 — and many of the most popular breweries are located in Anchorage.
This gateway city offers visitors and residents access to the state’s stunning wilderness areas. In addition to its vibrant food scene, Anchorage is home to seven of the state’s 35 breweries, including Anchorage Brewing Company and King Street Brewing.
8. Missoula, Montana
If spending your days in Big Sky Country and making craft beer away from the hustle and bustle of the big city sounds like an idyllic lifestyle, head to Missoula. With a population of 72,072, the city has seven independent breweries pouring carefully crafted potions .
Montana has 68 breweries that contribute $60 million a year to the economy, and Missoula’s three biggest breweries provide the greatest portion of that economic impact. Tourism is the cornerstone of this small town’s economy, and while outdoor adventure draws thousands of visitors to the area, Missoula’s craft beer scene is quickly becoming a main attraction.
9. Burlington, Vermont
Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state. With a solid reputation in the industry, Burlington is a good bet for those feeling extra cautious about switching or starting a new career. This town may only be home to 39,000 residents, but it’s been producing local beer since Vermont Pub & Brewery opened in 1988. With Burlington’s 40-plus breweries, pubs, and drinking establishments, finding a job in the beer industry here should not be a difficult task.
A college town full of young students eager to drink, Burlington is also home to one of the nation's largest brewers, Magic Hat. If starting your career in an area with a history of success in the industry and access to stunning lakes and breathtaking mountains sounds ideal, this location is perfect.
10. Vista, California
Located in northwestern San Diego County, Vista’s 101,659 residents are served by a whopping 15 breweries. Just seven miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, its Mediterranean climate and year-round outdoor activities call to those who’ve been dreaming of some California sun without all of the stress that comes with life in LA or San Francisco.
While visitors from all over the nation visit San Diego to enjoy its abundant sun and surfing, Vista draws beer lovers with its breweries and holds its own in craft-beer tourism. Move to this small city and you can ride the waves while making brews year-round.
Annette Benedetti is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier — one of her favorite places on earth.