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Top 50: Best brewers ranked
Extensive Web site poll puts American beers among the world's best. True? Grab a brew and debate.
June 30, 2005: 1:50 PM EDT
By Gordon T. Anderson, CNN/Money staff writer
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - For centuries, the beer faithful have made pilgrimages to places like London, Brussels and Munich in search of the perfect pint.

Today, there's a new hot spot to drink a cold one: San Diego.

A city generally noted for boats and beaches has become a center for suds. In fact, it is now home to three of the 10 top brewers in the world, at least according to a recent survey conducted by the Web site,

A trio of upstart beermakers -- who range from a beachfront pizzeria that makes its own beer to a fast-growing regional brewery -- have put Southern California on the map. For a region that was considered a beer wasteland as recently as the 1980s, that's no small achievement

(Click here to see the full results.)

The poll claims to be the world's largest. Some 30,000 different beers from over 4,000 brewers were eligible. Voters from more than 65 countries participated, according to the site. But the results were decidedly pro-American.

In the end, the survey showed that, like politics, all beer is local: two-thirds of the brewers judged the best were made in the U.S.A. American voters vastly outnumbered other nationalities, too. So perhaps it's no surprise that hometown heroes were on proud display.

Even if the results are a bit parochial, it shouldn't detract from the fact that American beer lovers have a lot to be thankful for these days.

As the survey reveals, it's never been easier to find quality beer across the land. There's good stuff from here to Kalamazoo (Michigan, that is), where the fine local brewers serve up a range of stouts and ales made from organic local ingredients.

Hoosiers can partake of the magnificent Dark Lords Russian Imperial Stout from Indiana's 3 Floyds Brewing Co. For Mainers, there's Allagash Brewing's various interpretations of Belgian styles.

In fact, about the only region thirsting for good brewers seems to be the Deep South. No company there makes it onto RateBeer's Top 50 list. And in many states in Old Dixie, it's a challenge to find any beer besides the mass-marketed varieties.

Unlike some beer competitions that take place at festivals with professional tasters judging the merits and demerits of various beers, this one was strictly Web-based. The tasting "panel" consisted of everyday drinkers -- amateurs, in other words, not pros.

Those judges were thousands of beer lovers, mostly aged 25 to 35. They sampled respective brews at home then went to the Web site to log their votes and opinions.

"The world's most avid amateur beer enthusiasts participated," RateBeer's Joe Tucker said in a press release. "Because of their amateur status there were no minced words in the reviews -- beers were rated frankly and freely."

Even if the survey wasn't exactly "scientific," RateBeer's total archive is a big one, with over a half million beer ratings collected on its servers. And it shows that American brewers can more than hold their own against a world of choices.

On Independence Day weekend, that's something to celebrate.

The Good Life is a weekly column that chronicles products, people and trends in luxury consumer goods, travel, and fine food and drink. Write to:  Top of page


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