The Brewers Association's Membership Coordinator and Brewery Detective Erin Glass keeps an eye on brewery openings, closings, transitions and breweries in planning. With so much interest in craft brewing today, there is a lot more detective work and a large number of calls and emails to breweries in planning, those on the cusp and those recently opened.
Many startups join the Brewers Association during the planning phase to access our resources and the expertise of the network and remain members after becoming operational. U.S. operational brewery membership is now at 1,218. Total brewery membership, when international breweries, contract brewing companies and breweries in planning are added, is 1,619.
The count is at 1,701 operating breweries in the U.S. There are 9 percent more breweries in the U.S. than a year ago. As I blow the dust off the historical records, it appears that there were 1,751 breweries in 1900 and 1,498 in 1910. So we have more breweries than we have since around 1905. My resource for these data points is The Register of United States Breweries 1876-1976 (compilers Friedrich and Bull). There certainly are a lot more diverse brewing styles being offered today, particularly by craft brewers, and I'm betting quality is far greater now than then.
At the end of March during the general session of the Craft Brewers Conference, I will present the number of breweries that operated for some or all of 2010, which will be a higher number than the current count, as it will include breweries that closed in 2010. Another interesting number will be the breweries opening count.