You know what's great? Beer. And the only thing better than a great beer is a great local beer. Wouldn't it be nice to know which of America's literally thousands of breweries is closest to you?
Well now you can! A dedicated community of GPS enthusiasts maintains a list of every brewery and brewpub in North America over at poi-factory.com. I took all the listings for the lower 48 -- all 4,750 of them -- and plotted them on a map. Then I overlaid a grid on the map called a Voronoi diagram. What it does, basically, is for any point in the lower 48, it shows you which brewery is the closest.
Check it out below. If you're not on a mobile device, you can mouse-over to get details about a region's "home" brewery, and you can click on the map to zoom in for more detail in dense urban areas. The little white dots when you zoom in are the actual brewery locations. Want to just see a giant image of the map instead? Here you go.
Every brewery in the lower 48
The first thing you'll notice is that the pattern of breweries typically follows population patterns -- more densely populated area have more breweries, hence the cells "belonging" to each brewery are smaller. Check out, for instance, the crazy-quilt of breweries in the San Francisco Bay area, below.
But in far-flung rural areas, breweries (and people) are spread farther apart from each other. In Southwestern Utah (below), for instance, the Zion Canyon Brewing Company is the only one for hundreds of miles around, according to poi-factory's crowdsourced data. Whether you live in say, Panaca, Nev., (pop. 963) or 236 miles away in Page, Ariz., (pop. 7,326), you can think of Zion Canyon as your home brew.
Conversely, if you live in a city, there are probably any number of breweries within a few blocks of you. If you live on one side of Baltimore, for instance, Full Tilt Brewing is probably the closest to you. On the other side, Union Brewing is probably close. And so on.
But in some places you find geographic clusters of brewing in places where you wouldn't expect it based on population alone. Check out Western New York (below), for instance. The many breweries there are a reflection of the region's rich beermaking history with breweries like Genesee in continuous operation since the late 1800s.
If nothing else, these maps should give you a good sense of what people are talking about when they talk about the "craft beer revolution" in the United States. The number of American breweries has risen sharply in recent years — up over 70 percent since the late 1990s, according to business statistics maintained by the Census Bureau. The Brewers Association, a trade group for craft beer makers, estimates that over 1,000 craft breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs popped up between 2012 and 2014 alone.
"The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a local brewery," the association wrote last year. "That percentage is only going to climb in the coming years."