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The Rise of Craft Beer in America

The Rise of Craft Beer in America

Craft beer production is at an all-time high in the United States, with the country reaching over 7,000 breweries in 2018 and expecting to add nearly 1,000 new breweries in 2019. But what is craft beer, and just how prevalent is it in the lives of drinking-age Americans?

The major beer producers in the United States – Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, and Constellation Brands – still dominate the industry’s sales, but small, independent craft breweries have increasingly climbed up the list of the top breweries in volume of beer produced for sale in the last few years. In fact, in 2017, 40 out of the 50 top breweries in the United States were craft breweries. 

But what is a craft brewery? According to the Brewers Association, craft breweries are defined by being both small (having an annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less) and independent (less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer) businesses that make beer. 

Considering that craft beer production is on the rise, and almost 400 counties in the United States had at least one brewery in 2016 that did not have any in 2012, we decided to take a closer look at this trend to determine where craft beer is making the biggest impact on local drinking scenes in our country. Even though craft breweries may utilize non-traditional ingredients, be engaged with their customers and community, and sponsor local events, there are risks associated with binge drinking in any setting, and it is important to be mindful of this if you choose to partake in the craft beer trend. 

Using data from the Brewers Association on craft beer production by state, we mapped out the states that produce the most and least craft beer in the U.S. Read on to learn more about what we found. 

The Amount of Craft Beer Produced Annually in Each U.S. State

Amount of Craft Beer Produced Annually Based On the Number Of Barrels Produced by State Graphic   

To begin, we looked at the states with the highest craft beer production, based on the number of barrels of craft beer produced annually. 

The states with the highest craft beer production by this metric were Pennsylvania and California by a wide margin, both producing over 3 million barrels of craft beer annually. Colorado and Ohio were just behind them in the rankings, but trailed far behind in terms of production, each producing around 1.5 million barrels annually. 

The states with the sparsest production were North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia, each producing under 20,000 barrels of craft beer annually.

The States That Produce The Most Craft Beer Annually

States That Produce the Most Craft Beer Annually Based on the Number of Barrels Produced Table

However, it’s important to also note that most people don’t consume craft beer in barrels, but in 12 oz cans. We decided to compare the number of 12 oz craft beers annually to the number of barrels of craft beer produced annually in each state to better illustrate how this type of alcoholic beverage permeates the market. 

Our findings showed that the 3,719,475 barrels of craft beer produced in the nation’s top producing state, Pennsylvania, translate to 1,229,906,400 cans of beer. California also produces over 1 billion 12 oz cans of beer annually, their 3,421,295 barrels resulting in 1,131,308,213 cans. 

This graphic shows the true prevalence of craft beer production in the United States. Even the lowest producing states are capable of producing at least 5 million cans of craft beer annually.  

Amount of Craft Beer Produced Annually by State by Number of Gallons Produced

It is important to consider the volume of alcohol production as it relates to the human beings it will affect. That’s why we decided to determine how craft beer production compares to population. To determine our next insights, we looked into the amount of craft beer produced annually in each U.S. state based on the number of gallons produced per each adult over 21 years old who lives in that state. 

The states with the highest production according to this metric are Vermont (21.3 gallons produced annually), Delaware (12.5 gallons), and Alaska (12.1 gallons). The least beer per drinking-age adult is produced annually in West Virginia (0.4 gallons), Mississippi (0.4 gallons), Arkansas and Alabama (both 0.6 gallons). 

The Most Popular Craft Beers

According to the Brewers Association, the most popular craft brewing companies in the U.S. are:

  • D. G. Yuengling & Son Inc.
  • Boston Beer Co.
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
  • New Belgium Brewing Co.
  • Duvel Moortgat
  • Gambrinus
  • Bell’s Brewery Inc.
  • CANarchy
  • Stone Brewing Co.
  • Deschutes Brewery

Drinking trends should be treated with a serious air of caution, including craft beer production in the United States. If you’re concerned that you or someone you know is abusing the use of alcohol, review our resources to learn more about how to help or get help. 


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