Here’s a reason to celebrate: America’s craft breweries are at an all-time high

The number of breweries in America has surpassed the high-water mark set in 1873, when the nation boasted 4,131 breweries.

The number of breweries in America has surpassed the high-water mark set in 1873, when the nation boasted 4,131 breweries.

(John Verive / Los Angeles Times)

You aren’t imagining things. There really are a lot of craft breweries making IPAs, stouts and everything in between. The past few years have seen an explosion in brewery openings, and as of Dec. 1, there are officially more breweries in America than ever before, with no sign of the industry slowing down.

The previous high-water mark for breweries in the U.S. was set in 1873, when there were 4,131. The Brewers Association, a nonprofit that supports craft breweries, just announced that there are currently 4,144 breweries in the U.S., with 1,800 more in the planning stages. Small, local breweries make up most of those in existence.

After a peak in the number of breweries in the 1870s, technologies such as refrigerated railcars and pasteurization made it possible to ship beer farther from the brewery. This led to a period of brewery consolidation that continued until the onset of Prohibition nearly wiped out the brewing industry in America.


Brewing companies struggled to bounce back after the repeal, as the major brewing conglomerates absorbed smaller local and regional breweries.

In 1978, there were fewer than 100 breweries in the country. That same year, Jimmy Carter signed a law that made homebrewing beer legal again, and the rise of the microbrewery followed soon after.

Check out this interactive timeline of the fall and rise of small breweries for more details.

>>Los Angeles craft beer guide

By the mid-’90s, small and independent breweries (what we now call “craft”) represented 1% of the total beer market share, and there were about 1,000 breweries making beer. By 2011, there were 2,000, and the 3,000 brewery mark was hit in 2014.

Now, more than two new breweries open somewhere in America every day, and California leads the pack.

“More than 600 California craft breweries generate $6.5 billion in annual revenue, employ thousands of people and contribute to the state’s nation-leading job growth,” Brook Taylor, the California Craft Brewers Association deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, said in a statement. “The craft beer industry is emblematic of California — innovative people, creating innovative products and providing new jobs in a rapidly growing industry.”

The growth is obvious, even at a local level, where it seems there’s a new brewery opening in Los Angeles every week. Over a dozen breweries have opened in L.A. this year, with seven new operations joining the L.A. County Brewers Guild in the past month, according to the guild’s executive director, Frances Michelle Lopez.

Nationwide, craft beer accounts for about 1 out of every 10 beers sold, and the Brewers Association has a goal of increasing craft market share by 20% by 2020.


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