If it feels like we spend a lot of time on craft beer here in the Inland Northwest, it’s not just us — there are more craft breweries in the U.S. than ever before. Even during the turn-of-the-century, pre-Prohibition brewers’ heyday, America didn’t have this many small breweries.
The Brewers Association has reported it before, and today the Beer Institute released its state-by-state annual comparison based on “permitted brewery” data from the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, better known as the TTB. According to their statistics, the U.S. now has 3,699 active breweries, almost a thousand of which opened during 2013. And other states are making headway, but a third of those breweries are located in the top four states: California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon.
That’s right, Washington is No. 2 in the nation for its number of breweries, with 251.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest percent change has been in states with very few breweries, like North Dakota, where the increase from 4 breweries in 2012 to 9 in 2013 more than doubled their number.
But that doesn’t take into account the population. If you compare based on the 2013 population, tiny Vermont shoots to the top of the list and Washington and California don’t even crack the top five:
1. Vermont ... 15,666 people per brewery
2. Oregon ... 18,895
3. Montana ... 21,599
4. Maine ... 22,902
5. Wyoming ... 23,306
6. Colorado ... 24,278
7. Washington ... 27,775
10. Idaho ... 41,337
19. California ... 75,458
To be fair, today’s number of breweries lags far behind that of the 1890s if you take population into account. We’d need to have more than 10,000 breweries nationwide to match that level.
Many of the new breweries are tiny operations that may never distribute beer beyond their own tap rooms or city boundaries. Americans have been drinking more craft beer as the number of breweries has grown in the past couple of decades, but the market is still dominated by the massive corporations that sell under many brands.