Beer breweries hit American record

The number of breweries in the U.S. is at an all-time high, according to an industry group. Most of them are craft-beer producers.
(Carl Court / AFP/Getty Images)

It’s getting crowded in the American beer market, with the most breweries in operation in the country’s history.

This year, 2,751 breweries were active and permitted in the U.S., according to industry group the Beer Institute. Of those, 98% opened in the last three decades, 85% in the last two.

The industry isn’t quite going the way of Starbucks, which plans to add 3,000 stores in the Americas in the next four years. But 442 new breweries opened in 2012 alone -- California leading the pack with 31 new launches.


The new entries aren’t brewing bold-faced brands such as Bud or Coors. Most are craft beer producers, creating small-scale artisan batches of booze geared to extremely specific tastes.

In 1887, when the Beer Institute’s data begins, 2,269 breweries were up and running in the U.S., all of them defined as “traditional.” When the first so-called specialty outfit appeared in 1966, the total brewery population had slumped to 116 nationwide.

In recent decades, as major beer companies consolidated, the number of traditional breweries shrank. Since 2006, only 20 have been in operation in the U.S.

But the specialty brewery scene has exploded, surging every year and stealing away market share from giants such as Anheuser-Busch InBev.

As of August, breweries are opening at the rate of one a day, according to the Brewers Assn. trade group. That’s the fastest pace since the end of Prohibition.

The beer industry employs 1.8 million Americans, according to the Beer Institute.



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