U.S. Craft Brewery Count Reaches 2000

When Brewers Association staff returned home after the inspiring 2012 Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego, we turned our attention to the end-of-month reports we pull from the database for member count, operating brewery count, dues sent in by members, BA Forum users, and circulation numbers for The New Brewer. Lo and behold; our operating brewery count hit 2,051 as of April 30, 2012. The current count of craft brewers stands exactly at 2,000 and the count of domestic non-craft brewers stands at 51.

(These counts are for brick-and-mortar facilities, and does not include contract or alternating proprietorship operations so that there isn’t a double-counting of breweries.)

So when did we hit other milestones since craft brewers have been around?

1,500 craft breweries–2008 and 1999. We hit this number twice, with a dip in between. 1999 was the first time in the craft brewing era. Then we slipped back under in 2001, hit a trough of 1,394 in 2005 and climbed back over 1,500 in 2008. That seems that it  was not that long ago, considering we are at 2,000 now.

1,000 craft breweries–We hit this number in 1996. This was a period of the most openings in the craft era, with 333 brewery openings in 1996. Unlike today, more than 60% of these openings were in brewpubs. I think of this as a time when many communities got their first brewpub and there were many opportunities and good locations for pubs . The count of brewpubs from 1996 to 1998 jumped from under 700 to 1,000.

500 craft breweries–It was only two years earlier that the craft brewery count hit 500. The year was 1994.The craft barrelage was less than a quarter of what it is today, but grew 44% off the smaller base.

100 craft breweries–1988 was the year. We added 40 brewpubs and 10 microbreweries that year, more than doubling the count of brewpubs in the country, and placing brewpubs as the majority of craft breweries in the country. Brewpub dominance of the craft business model reigns today, although the gap is closing as so many packaging breweries are opening. And it could flip to packaging breweries in the next couple of years. The craft brewery count was 124 in 1988. Craft brewers sold just over 316,000 barrels in 1988. The craft brewery count has grown about 16 times from then to now and craft barrelage has grown 36 times in that period.

So when do you think we’ll hit 2,500 craft breweries?

Paul Gatza

May 23, 2012

Paul Gatza is the director of the Brewers Association (BA), a not-for-profit trade association whose purpose is to promote and protect American craft brewers and American craft beer and the community of brewing enthusiasts. Paul is a member of the association’s Brewpubs, Technical, Communications, Market Development, PR & Marketing and Government Affairs Committees.

Paul’s origin in the beer community started when he took up homebrewing in 1990. He worked on the bottling line at Boulder Beer and would sneak over to the brewhouse when opportunity allowed. He owned a pair of homebrew supply shops in Boulder and Longmont, Colorado from 1994 to 1998. He served as director of the American Homebrewers Association for 7 years and is in his 17th year as Brewers Association director. Paul is ranked as a National Beer Judge by the Beer Judge Certification Program. Paul is also a former judge director of both the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup, before moving to the judge panels for these elite competitions.

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