Preliminary End of Year Brewery Count is 1,949

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One of the numbers we track diligently each month is the operating U.S. brewery count. The number is usually not perfect. Brewers aren’t great at letting us know when they’ve shut down. Some are enthusiastic about letting us know when they open so that they can receive an active listing on the brewery locator directories on and Nanobreweries can be especially tricky to ferret out if/when they open/ed or closed. So the operating brewery count is a snapshot that has value as an approximation and greater value as a trendtracking device.

The operating brewery count is, of course different from the annual count of breweries that operated for some or all of the year. That number would include all breweries that are making beer at the end of the year plus those that made beer during the year, but stopped at some point in a calendar year. Will the annual count hit 2,000 once all of the data is in? We’ll know in February or March.

At the end of 2010, we had an operating count of 1,689. By the time the Beer Industry Production Survey (BIPS) was complete we found that a few more breweries had closed during the year that were still in the active count at the turn of the year and we found a few more that had opened. The 2010 annual count was 1,716, with 41 closings, resulting in a number that should have been 14 lower than what we had. The 2010 count will be adjusted again during the 2012 BIPS due to 2010 openings and closing that we learned about in the last three quarters of 2011.

Bored yet? Well, here’s the juice with some numbers we don’t publish (that means don’t call ’em official) that give an indication of how quickly the number of brewers is growing:

December 31, 2011 operating brewery count 1,949. Brewery-in-planning count 915.

December 31, 2010 operating brewery count 1,689. Brewery-in-planning count 513.

December 31, 2009 operating brewery count 1,546. Brewery-in-planning count 287.

December 31, 2008 operating brewery count 1,496. Brewery-in-planning count 207.

That makes for about 450 more breweries over 3 years, and 260 more in one year based on these numbers. I’ll remind you that these are very preliminary numbers. It is fortunate for the new entrepreneurs to the industry that the beer drinker is moving toward craft brewed beers in rapidly growing numbers and occasions. These numbers wouldn’t be possible without greater understanding of the segment and the variety of beer styles by distributors, and retailers allowing the shelf space to craft that it deserves more than ever before. These numbers also wouldn’t be possible without the commitment to quality by those who have been around the craft community since that rough patch that hindered industry growth 9 to 15 years ago.

Other end-of-the-year counts that our members might be interested in are we have 1,352 operating brewery members (up from 1,204 at the end of 2010), 101 operating international brewery members (up from 81), 44 contract brewing company members (up from 39), 582 brewery-in-planning members (up from 311), 340 distributor members (up from 223), 406 allied trade members (up from 348), 695 individual members (up from 415) and 24,147 American Homebrewers Association members (up from 19,669).

Paul Gatza

January 19, 2012

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