- In the last ten years, the number of breweries has grown from 1,511 to 6,327.
- Last year, small and independent craft brewers served up $76.2 billion to the U.S. economy.
- 995 new microbreweries and brew pubs opened in 2017 alone.
So, safe to say that we love our beer in this country — enough that there’s a day dedicated to celebrating those who revel in raising a pint of their favorite hoppy beverage. But while the numbers above are compelling, they are perhaps not surprising since we're all aware the brewing industry has been booming for the last couple of decades. What may be lesser known, though, is how large and vibrant the brewing scene was 150 years ago, or how far it fell before the resurgence we’re currently enjoying.
Back in 1873, at the industry’s peak, there were roughly 4,000 breweries in operation. Those numbers began to plummet the following year, reaching a low point of 89 breweries in 1977 (not counting the prohibition period, when the number of course was zero). Smithsonian.com has an interesting article on why the industry slid to such dismal numbers, but two key factors were consolidation by large breweries and lack of variety in beer styles.
It wasn’t until the mid-90’s that things started to turn around, and it took until 2015 — well into our rebirth period— to surpass the glory days of the 19th century. As the number of craft breweries began to grow, so did the variety of styles, but other things started to happen, too. People had more access to information. Details on a new beer or brewery were a mouse click away. Apps allowed us to find and rate our favorite beers. Social media offered us a community that extended well beyond the brew pub walls. All those factors have continued to shape the beer drinking experience that we know today and are surely a driving force behind the overall success of the industry.
We’ve loved drinking beer for centuries, but now true fans relish sharing beer just as much. So grab your growler and celebrate the joy that comes from connecting with a fellow beer lover!