Let’s Do the Math

Craft Beer California

Graphic courtesy of the Brewers Association

California is in the lead! In 2013, the Golden State led the nation in brewery openings. And with the recent opening of King Harbor Brewing this month, we may be on our way to another bountiful year.

According to the Brewers Association, which held its annual Craft Brewers Conference in Denver earlier this month, 413 new U.S. breweries threw open their doors in 2013, with only 44 closings. In total, there are now 2,866 breweries in the United States.

When you look at who the big players are in craft beer, three of the Top 10 are based right here in California. Sierra Nevada comes in at # 2. Lagunitas Brewing is at # 5 and in the 10th spot belongs to Stone Brewing. Also, the first two on the list have just recently expanded with East Coast and Midwest operations respectively.

Some may worry that we are near saturation with breweries, but I disagree.  The naysayers have been saying that since 2007 when the nation had 1,469 breweries and look where we are now.  Growth has been over 10% for 10 years now.  That is impressive.

Enough with the numbers.  Los Angeles and California may have clusters with more breweries than seem needed but when you realize how big Los Angeles is and drive through areas without craft beer for miles, there are probably really underserved neighborhoods out there.  Out of 100 beers bought, if only 10 or so are craft, then there are customers out there that have the opportunity to switch to the good stuff too.

More of an issue in my mind are the raw materials.  Especially for us in California, water is a huge problem, and another area of shortfall will be hops and grain.  Each new brewery or brewpub requires those two ingredients, which makes demand greater and greater, and as we know from Economics, that means the prices will go up.  How this will play out in the years to come is unknown, but it will have a large impact on how the business of beer is run.

As long as the beer is well crafted and the people have a modicum of business savvy, there will be customers out there (and here) who will give a brewery tap room at least one visit. Once that happens, second and third visits aren’t that far behind.

Your Beer of the Week is a numerical ode to all the sun we get. 329 Days of Sun lager or just 329 for short is a new lager from Golden Road Brewing.  Brewmaster Jesse Houck and Golden Road have made a name with hoppy beers, but this new year-round offering, available in both 16 and 12oz cans, is smooth and flavorful for a below 5% ABV beer and is ideally suited for taking a break and relaxing.  You can also drink it on the other 36 days of the year as well.

The Homework assignment is to make a decision between two festivals. This Sunday, April 27, both the Atwater Village Beer Festival and the Brewfest of the Valley are bringing a wide variety of breweries together mere miles apart. <strongLink ‘n’ Hops and 55 Degree Wine are your hosts in Atwater and the Pasadena chapter of the Congregation Ale House is behind the latter.

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.


Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman's writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

Leave a Comment