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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where are the New Planned Breweries? Here's the Answer

A little while ago I was talking about the growth of the craft beer industry and questioning its future health. My concern was based on the number of planned new breweries in mid-2011. The precise number was, at the time, 725. That number has since been revised to 756. That's up from 389 in 2010. Seriously shocking.

Recognizing there are currently 1,740 operating US breweries, the 756 would represent a 43 percent increase. Of course, these numbers are somewhat nebulous. Some of the planned breweries will never open; many won't open in 2011. A planned brewery is just that, until it opens for business.

Nonetheless, I think it is reasonable to be concerned that overly rapid growth could result in market saturation with respect to craft beer, or whatever you want to call quality beer these days. (There is an ongoing discussion about the meaning of "craft" on the Beervana blog. Join in if you dare.)

It occurred to me that the impact of the new planned breweries is really only an issue if they are in areas where there are already a lot of breweries. If there are 100 new breweries coming to Oregon, that probably isn't a good thing. If they are coming to the light blue areas on the chart below, states where there are few craft breweries per million people, that's good news. These areas are woefully under-served.

I couldn't find the data I needed on the web. So I asked the Brewers Association for a little assistance. Frankly speaking, those guys are amazing. It took a week or so, but they came through. The numbers are quite clear and show almost exactly what you would like them to show if you like the idea of growth in under-served areas (the light blue dudes on the chart).

In the chart below, the whole pie represents all 756 planned new breweries. Now look at the legend, which matches a color to areas based on per-capita breweries per million people. The slices show percentages of new planned breweries in each of those areas.

Of the 756 planned breweries, 55 percent (417) are located in the two areas with the lowest per-capita number of breweries. The percentage increases to 63 percent if we look at the three most under-served areas, states with fewer than 10 breweries per million people. I think that's good news.

On the other side of the coin, only 12 percent (92, to be exact) of the new planned breweries are located in the areas with the greatest concentration of existing breweries. Since these are the places where market saturation could be a concern, the concern seems misplaced for now.

I will be pulling some additional interesting, revealing factoids from the Brewers Association data in future posts. Meanwhile, a special thanks to Andy Sparhawk at the Brewers Association, who mined this data.


  1. Does Montana really have the craft brewer density equal to that of Oregon? Must be the Big Sky.

  2. I'd really like to see the data behind the chart, I'm positive there's more going on in Texas than that.

  3. @Tony, there are a lot of breweries in Montana relative to population: 27 at the moment. Only 4 new breweries planned, but I think they're doing just fine over there. Great beers, too.

    @lushtastic, Texas is a bit of an anomaly. Of the low tier states (less than 2 breweries per million folks), only Texas (50) and Florida (25) have big plans. The next closest is Georgia, with 14 planned new. Also, Texas is third, overall, in terms of new planned breweries, trailing only California (97) and Colorado (51). Some of the percentages are seriously skewed because of activity in one or two states. I plan to discuss those anomalies in future posts.


Keep it civil, please.