PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- It's a whole lot more difficult to build vacations around craft beer when just about everywhere in the United States is a craft beer destination.
We've been writing about beer and vacations for four years now, which is an incredibly long time in craft beer terms. Just for perspective, when we wrote our first story about craft beer vacation destinations in 2011 -- and its follow-up after leaving out Michigan and Colorado completely -- there were 1,716 craft breweries in operation. By the time we put together our lists of the top beer vacation cities, brewpubs worth visiting and the top brewpubs in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., in 2012, that number had already jumped to nearly 2,000.
Last year, we put together a couple of lists featuring the most-hidden craft beer destinations, but even that was a stretch with more than 2,400 craft brewers in operation. By the beginning of this year, the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association craft beer industry group noted that 98% of the 2,722 breweries operating in the United States were considered craft. They were also getting a lot more company, as the Beer Institute industry lobbying group in Washington, D.C., noted this year that the number of licensed breweries in the U.S. had jumped to 3,699.
That's roughly 74 breweries per state -- if they were all somehow distributed that evenly -- but between California's more than 320 breweries and Mississippi's three, there are a whole lot of places where clusters of breweries have managed to thrive. Yes, that means that, occasionally, you have to travel for great beer and can't just get it in the airport concourse of whatever great beer city you have a layover in.
With brewery numbers increasing and these enclaves becoming less rare each year, we've come up with five areas worth visiting for their beer, but worth staying in for their hospitable surroundings: