Craft beer is now a $6.5-billion industry in California

Southern California's craft brew scene is far from capacity

There are now more than 550 craft breweries operating in California and the number just keeps going up. Statistics from the California Craft Brewers Assn. illustrate just how much the industry is growing.

While Los Angeles may have been slow to catch on, California as a state was ground zero for the craft beer industry when now-billionaire Ken Grossman started Sierra Nevada Brewing in 1980. Thirty-five years later, California’s craft breweries have developed into a powerful economic engine that provides jobs (some 48,000 of them) and contributes more than a billion dollars in local, state and federal taxes.

The statistics reveal big number after big number, such as the $6.5-billion dollar total economic impact that the craft brewing industry had in 2014, and the 24% growth in breweries operating in the state from 2013 to 2014.

It’s enough to make even the most bullish craft fan start to worry about a bubble bursting for the industry. The predictions of a craft beer bust are not new, and they’re regularly dredged up every few months in one publication or another. However, the impressive expansion of California’s craft brewing industry may be just a beginning.

One figure that stands out is the total production from all 500-plus craft breweries in the state in 2014: 3.4 million barrels of beer (that’s over 100 million gallons). But a little perspective is important: Though 3.4 million barrels is far and away the most craft beer produced by any state, California also has a huge population. Northerly neighbor Oregon produced 1.6 million barrels in 2014 -- half as much as California, but Oregon’s population is only a tenth of California's. 

With some quick bar napkin math, the total per-capita consumption of craft beer in Oregon comes out to about 100 pints in 2014, while in California that number is only about 13 pints per person. There is clearly plenty of room for craft beer to grow in the Golden State.

The Greater Los Angeles area alone is home to four times as many people as the entire state of Oregon, but the total production of L.A.’s craft breweries is just a drop in the growler compared to the rest of the state.

The Los Angeles Brewer’s Assn. has no official figure of the total craft beer production in Los Angeles, but it is estimated to have been less than 60,000 barrels in 2014. There is clearly plenty of room for craft to grow in Los Angeles. And with more than a half-dozen breweries planning to open in the region by the end of 2015, you can expect L.A. to remedy that situation.

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