Beer by Numbers: The story of American craft brewing in 11 statistics

Each year, the Boulder-based Brewers Association throws a bunch of numbers at media covering the trade group’s signature event, the Great American Beer Festival.

BI recognized New Belgium Brewery not for its beer, but for its environmental practices and employee satisfaction. (Courtesey of New Belgium)
BI recognized New Belgium Brewery not for its beer, but for its environmental practices and employee satisfaction. (Courtesey of New Belgium)
(Courtesey of New Belgium)

Each year, the Boulder-based Brewers Association throws a bunch of numbers at media covering the trade group’s signature event, the Great American Beer Festival. 

We dutifully took notes at Friday’s press conference, added some context and give you these:  

4,800: Number of active breweries in the U.S. This is the heyday of brewing in America. Back in 1873 — three years before Colorado became a state —  the country claimed 4,131 breweries, most of them small and local. Consolidation and a little thing called Prohibition ushered in a period of decline. The industry bottomed-out in 1978, with fewer than 50 brewing companies and 100 brewing facilities. Now you can spend every weekend at a new brewery opening.

358: The number of breweries in Colorado as of Aug. 1, ranking the state second to California in sheer number of breweries. How come so many here? The state has a rich beer history, great water and laws that are friendly to opening taprooms adjacent to brewing operations.

1,900: How many new breweries are likely to open in the U.S. in the next two years, based on active federal brewing permit data. If you want to know what might be coming to your neighborhood, peruse the BA’s directory of Colorado breweries for “breweries in planning.”   

8 percent: This year’s craft beer growth by production volume. That is down from the previous year’s 13 percent. Brewers Association economist Bart Watson attributes the slowdown largely to simple math: The larger the foundation, the more modest the percentage growth.

$55.7 billion: The estimated economic impact of the American craft brewing industry.

$1.7 billion: Craft beer’s economic impact on Colorado last year, an increase of over 50 percent. Much of the growth was driven by the expansion of larger independent breweries selling in more states and retail outlets, according to a Colorado Brewers Guild-commissioned study.

424,000: The number of full-time employees in U.S. craft brewing.

$28.6 million: The Great American Beer Festival’s estimated economic impact on Denver. The money pumped into the local community during the festival represents 2 percent of the city’s gross domestic product during those three days. That’s a lot of pedicab rides.  

7,300: The number of beers entered in this year’s GABF competition, which not only carries bragging rights but serious business implications. For the 15th consecutive year, the American-style IPA category boasted the most entries.

2: Number of pumpkin beer categories. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, pumpkin beers are a big seasonal seller and seem to hit shelves right around Independence Day. Most pumpkin beers gain their flavor from cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and other spices. Others are brewed with canned or fresh pumpkin. The BA created two different categories this year.

3,600: Festival volunteers this year. These are the people in the lime green shirts pouring beer at booths and helping out elsewhere. It’s too late this year, but here’s how you can join their ranks. You need a referral from a current volunteer to qualify, and new volunteers must be 25. Benefits vary depending on how many shifts you work. (Yes, comp tickets are one).