To give you an idea of how rapidly craft beer has expanded in this country, consider that after Prohibition ended, it took 88 years for America to reach 1,000 breweries again. That’s almost a century. After that, it took only another 15 to hit 2,000 breweries, which we did in 2011. Today, less than a decade later, we have well over 4,000 beer-producing joints in this great land. Yes, the amount of breweries in the U.S.A. has doubled in a measly six years. And there are no signs of this is slowing down.
Yet for all the pockets of saturation, there are spots in America basically untouched by craft beer’s hoppy hands, places where hazy IPAs only stop on their way cross country from a Monkish trader to a Tired Hands trader. But who has it the worst? If you love craft beer, where would you least like to live?
We decided to find out.
To start, we determined the worst state to live in for craft beer. To do so, we looked at the number of breweries in the state, the size of the state, and the number of breweries that distribute to the state. Not a lot of breweries in a large state? Poor distribution? We put it on a list of contenders. This quickly narrowed our search down to three possible states—West Virginia, North Dakota, and Mississippi.
If you go by BeerAdvocate, there are 14 breweries in Mississippi, 18 in West Virginia, and 12 in North Dakota. Pretty terrible numbers across the board, especially when you consider a state as small as Vermont has close to 70. This led to our first cut: West Virginia. While the Mountain State doesn’t have a lot of breweries, it has more than the other two states. It’s also smaller and situated near craft beer hotbeds in Virginia and Pennsylvania. It’s bad—but not North Dakota or Mississippi bad.
So there were two—Mississippi and North Dakota. To be honest, we’re splitting hairs here. Both states have it equally rough. North Dakota, like we just mentioned, is home to slightly fewer breweries. When it comes to distribution, it’s basically a push, as Mississippi sees releases from 43 breweries while North Dakota has access to 41, according to Seekabrew. The only real difference is size. North Dakota is the 19th largest state and Mississippi is the 32nd, at least in terms of area. Plus, to further differentiate, the highest rated beers out of Mississippi do edge out those from North Dakota, according to multiple review sites. So what does that all mean? It means North Dakota is our champ… or loser, depending on how you want to define it.
While it’s close, thanks to its size, slightly worse distribution network, and lack of outstanding homemade beers, it seems, to us, that North Dakota has it the worst.
But where in North Dakota would you least like to live if you love hoppy IPAs?
To figure it out, we created a Google Map with all the breweries, decent bars, and okay bottle shops in North Dakota. It took all of about 15 seconds. What emerged, unsurprisingly, was a state map with most craft beer options concentrated in Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismark, and, to a certain extent, Minot. With that information, we looked for a town of at least somewhat decent size (minimum of 5,000 people) that was farthest from those hubs and from other states/countries that have better beer options. This left us with only one spot.
Over 150 miles from Fargo. A solid 120 from Minot. Even 90 miles from Grand Forks. Devils Lake, North Dakota, is the worst town in America if you love craft beer. We said it. Sorry, guys. A town of some 7,000, Devils Lake is far from big, but it is more populated than a lot of the other spots in the state. And if you happen to find yourself there and in search of a beer, well, Yelp says there’s an Applebee’s?
Yeah. Good luck.