//= $storyData['b_content'] ?>
Many cities claim the title, including Grand Rapids, Michigan and San Diego, California. But when it comes to sheer math, the title now belongs to Chicago. The "Third Coast" city -- situated along the banks of vast Lake Michigan -- is first in the US in the number of breweries it contains, according to new data provided by the Brewers Association, an industry group.
Los Angeles and New York, two cities with bigger populations, come in fourth and sixth respectively. "It shows that Chicago has earned the right to be thought of as a top beer city," Bart Watson, the group's chief economist, told AFP. Chicago had 172 breweries as of the end of November, with Denver -- with less than a third of Chicago's population -- boasting the second highest number at 161.
Also read: Ways to cook with beer
Overall, the country has seen explosive growth in the number of breweries -- 98 per cent of them making craft beer. Their numbers have doubled or tripled since 2013 in the eight US cities with the highest number of new beer makers, according to Watson. "We've seen more breweries open in the last five years than in any other point in our country's history," Watson said.
The sheer volume of brewers in Chicago makes a strong case for the Midwestern city to take the crown as the country's beer capital, said Danielle D'Alessandro, executive director of the Illinois Brewers Association. "We are really seeing our craft beer scene just thrive," she told AFP, calling the city an epicentre of innovation.
Also read: Frothed Not Fried-Hanoi's Egg Beer Draws Curious Drinkers
D'Alessandro credits a number of factors -- from culture to regulatory changes, to ready access to fresh water from Lake Michigan -- for helping Chicago's beer scene hop. "We're pretty excited about this designation," she said. "It's a testament to our brewers."