Craft brewing was responsible for a $79.1 billion slice of the U.S. economy last year, plus more than 550,000 jobs, according to research announced this week by the Brewers Association.
Those numbers are based on an analysis of 2018 data provided by BA members. Those members are brewers who are “small”—producing 6 million barrels or fewer—and “independent,” meaning that larger beverage companies can’t own or control more than 25 percent of the brewery.
In 2017 the BA reported an impact of about $76.2 billion. That means the impact grew roughly 4 percent last year. However, that also means that the growth in economic impact is slowing down; the previous year the BA’s estimate had grown more than 12 percent.
For perspective, the size of the U.S. economy—about $20 trillion—grew less than 3 percent overall in 2018.
Of the 550,000 jobs cited, more than 150,000 were at the breweries themselves. The report also aims to track impact at wholesalers and retailers, so those jobs are included, too.
The BA counted 7,231 breweries operating at the end of 2018, compared to 5,606 in 2016.
These numbers do more than help brewers feel warm and fuzzy about their impact on the economy. They’re a useful tool when brewers’ guilds and the BA go to state capitols and Washington, D.C., to make the case for easing tax and regulatory burdens.
“Because of the diffuse nature of craft brewing, it’s hard to tell the diverse story of the economic contributions that craft brewers are making all across the country,” says Bart Watson, the BA’s chief economist. “Our economic impact number helps quantify the contributions of small brewers all around the country, which is vital when telling their story to lawmakers, from local to national.”
The report also looked at economic impact by state. The largest overall, not surprisingly, is California at $9 billion. However, the biggest contributors per capita—an interesting measurement of where beer culture is thriving—were Colorado, Vermont, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Maine.