Where Can You Find America’s Best Beer?

Mike Wirth maps medal winners from the Great American Beer Festival from 1987 to 2007. I’m not surprised that California has won so many medals, because, well it’s a big state, but check out Colorado and Wisconsin. There must be some good beer there. Although, it’s hard to make any real judgment based just on medals. Coors and Budweiser have each won seven medals. Really? To each his own, I guess.

[Thanks, Mike]


  • Wisconsin was settled primarily by German immigrants. Until not that long ago, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a brewery in WI.

  • Here’s a better link to that image:


    It seems that “medal winners” link is broken.

    Oooh, and it’s Friday. I’ll be drinking http://www.augustiner-braeu.de/ tonight. Good stuff since 1328. Y’all enjoy your Coors & [the other] Budweiser :)

  • Drew Robertson March 27, 2009 at 9:36 am

    the chart really shd be adjusted for population…ideally population of non-Mormon, non-JW etc males between 18-80

  • There’s a new-ish FB application where people can enter in their top 5 beer (and just about anything else too, tv shows, movies, etc.) It would be cool to see that sort of data charted like this – but I guess the app and or FB would have to allow it.

  • I added population data and ran this again. Here are the top ten.

    State   Medals per 1,000 People
    Alaska 0.078683594
    Colorado 0.065189365
    Wyoming 0.045056208
    Oregon 0.044854171
    Wisconsin 0.041222701
    Vermont 0.025753698
    Delaware 0.021761739
    Montana 0.020673117
    Washington 0.017406642
    Utah 0.01644482

    And I also made a fancy Excel graph. yay!

    Btw, I’m from Colorado, and I love beer. So much. Mmmm… beer.

  • What would really be interesting is a medals to breweries (or even better microbreweries) ratio.

    That said, it’s no accident that California, Wisconsin, and Colorado are the top three. Some of the best beers in the country are definitely coming out of those states.

  • I moved to WI from MO in 2001 and was AMAZED at the number of microbreweries and brewpubs here already – ahead of the rest of the nation in the microbrewery craze except for CO probably (don’t know much about CA). I think it’s all the Germanic heritage, perhaps? Or that the winter here makes one want to drink. But anyway, anymore all I drink is local beer – there’s plenty of it and it’s good. My favorite breweries are New Glarus, Lake Louie, Central Waters, and good local brewpubs are too numerous to name.

  • We do indeed have some awesome beer here in Wisconsin. I will be very sad if I have to move somewhere that doesn’t make beer such a priority.

  • One other thing to keep in mind when analyzing the data: this only takes into account breweries that actually submit their beers to the GABF. Founders, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is perhaps one of the best breweries in the world (Breakfast Stout, Devil Dancer, Red’s Rye, Kentucky Breakfast Stout–incredible beers) and they don’t usually submit to GBAF. A little brewery in Michigan called Bell’s? Also doesn’t submit to GABF. But no surprise Wisconsin is in the top three. New Glarus alone makes it one of the best beer states in the country.

  • Well Wisconsin isn’t that surprising… Milwaukee is there, and their baseball team is called the Brewers. :)

    Colorado had a bunch of craft breweries start there, and continues to have great beer. Fat tire is probably the biggest. GABF was started in Colorado and continues to be hosted in Denver. Perhaps a local slant?

    Coors and Budweiser win medals because there are pretty much GABF categories built for them. ie, “Best American-style Lager”.

  • Definitely some selection bias in terms of who enters – in contrast to Eddie’s account of small-but-great breweries in Wisconsin that don’t submit, there’s really no reason for even the tiniest brewers in Colorado to skip GABF. But I will testify that Colorado brewers make some freaking amazing beers. Avery, O’Dell, Great Divide, and yes, New Belgium. Oh, Avery, my love.

    Another confounding variable here is state alcohol laws. I was impressed that my home state Iowa did as well as it did, considering that beers above about 6% ABV are taxed like spirits and thus basically aren’t sold there. Conversely, Colorado has pretty strict limits on what can be sold in grocery stores – meaning that if you want to buy much other than Bud Light and wine coolers, you have to go to a liquor store, where you’re more likely to encounter really great beer.