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2011 New Brewery Report

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More than 600 new breweries are slated to open in the next two years, marking a massive growth in the brewing biz. Here are 40 we’ve got our eyes on.

The United States is currently in the midst of the greatest boom in new breweries in—well, maybe in forever. According to the Brewers Association, which tracks these things, 618 new breweries will open in the next year or two. That’s on top of 1,753 active breweries, an increase of 35 percent. That’s the kind of growth spike that would have made the 2007 housing market blush; surely this is evidence of a massive craft-brewing bubble?

Actually, no. To begin with, breweries are not evenly distributed across the country. In Oregon, for example, there’s a brewery for every 40,000 people. On the other end of the spectrum lies Louisiana, where there’s only one brewery per 1 million people. If this were natural growth, where the market was adjusting to meet demand, we’d expect to see more growth in regions that have low brewery density. And indeed, that’s exactly what’s happening: Growth is rising most sharply in the South (48 percent) and Great Plains (45 percent) where density is low, and slower in the Mountain region (29 percent) and West Coast (25 percent), where it’s high.

Put it another way: Imagine the United States grew to have New Mexico’s density of breweries—a place far more famous for chilies than beer. If that happened, the country would have around 2,400 brewing outfits, or roughly the number we will have once the current slate of breweries opens. If we got to, say, Idaho’s density, we could handle 3,300 breweries.

Here are a couple other metrics to consider: Americans buy roughly 210 million barrels of beer each year. Of that, just 10 million are craft-brewed. Most of these new breweries will sell modest amounts of beer—say, a couple thousand barrels. At that rate, the entire new batch of breweries would add only 1.25 million barrels of production to the U.S. total—one-half of one percent of America’s total beer production. In other words, we have lots of room to grow.  –Jeff Alworth

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