Number Of American Breweries Reaches Historic High

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The most breweries open in the United States at any point in our history was 4,131, a milestone reached way back in 1873. Right afterwards, breweries started merging at a furious pace, drastically reducing that number. Then prohibition decimated the industry, closing almost every brewery (except for the few who figured out non-alcoholic products to make). When prohibition ended thirteen years later, fewer than 800 reopened in the year after repeal of the 18th Amendment. But many didn’t last long, and by 1950 the number was down to 407. And the slide continued, with only 230 in 1961 and the nadir of 80 in 1983, with only 51 of them owned by independent companies. For what it’s worth, other accounts say 1978 was the low point. Once the first two California craft breweries got going — Anchor in 1965 and New Albion in 1978 — things moved slowly, it took until 1994 before small brewers made up 1% of the total beer market. In 1996, we returned to pre-prohibition numbers, with 1,000 breweries open. Fifteen years later, in 2011, that number had doubled to 2,000, but in only three more years we’d reached 3,000 breweries. At the end of September, three months ago, we reached 4,000.

Today, the Brewers Association released a new press release:

As of the end of November, there are now 4,144 breweries in the country, topping the historic high of 4,131 breweries in 1873.

I knew it was coming, but it’s still a nice milestone to mark. More breweries are open right now in the U.S. than have ever been open at one time before. That’s pretty cool. Congratulations to all of those breweries.

A few additional tidbits worth noting:

  • Brewery openings now exceed two a day.
  • Fifteen states are now home to more than 100 breweries: California, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana.
  • IPA remained the top style sold by independent craft brewers, and continues to grow faster than the overall craft category.

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