United States of Craft Beer: Which Regions Sell the Most?

West Is Powerhouse But Other Regions, Including Middle America, Are Gaining

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New York's craft-brewing industry got a boost today with news that the state will restore a tax break and allow craft-brew sales at farmers markets -- because who doesn't need some ale to go with that freshly picked corn?

"This legislation will give our state's growing craft-beer industry the tools needed to create jobs, promote agriculture and encourage environmentally friendly economic development across New York state," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, which reported the story. The AP noted that the state's craft-brewing industry has doubled in the last 10 years, citing industry figures, and the restoration of the tax break certainly illustrates the rising clout of the fast-growing sector.

Credit: Source: Brewers Assocation

But the Empire State still trails eight other states in the total number of craft breweries with 56. That puts it behind California (238); Washington (121); Oregon (118); Colorado (114); Michigan (85); Pennsylvania (72); and Wisconsin (67), according to data compiled by the Brewers Association as of June 30, 2011. And on a per capita basis, New York ranks just 40th, with one craft brewery per 346,038 people, according to the association, a leading trade group for craft brewers. (See chart below for the top 10.)

As this map below shows, the West leads with the most penetration of craft-brew sales in the overall beer market. And that 's no surprise considering the region (particularly California) is where the movement began in the 1970s and early 1980s with pioneers such as New Albion Brewery and Sierra Nevada.

craft dollar sales vs. share of   beer

"The Pacific Northwest and California have always been very strong in craft and much of the rest of the country has spent time catching up," said Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association. But other regions are gaining fast, as the craft-brew craze hits towns big and small. Consider the Plains states, where craft-brewery share is still in the single digits, but sales growth was 16% in 2011, according to SymphonyIRI, which does not include bar or restaurant sales.

Craft ventures are sprouting on an almost weekly basis it seems. The story of 612Brew is typical. Four friends who got their start home brewing announced the new Minneapolis brewery this week, taking the name from the city's area code and their launch date (6/12/12). Two beers are planned: "SIX," a "sessionable American pale ale" and "Rated R," a "spicy and hoppy" rye IPA.

"States like California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado support hundreds of small and independent breweries. We're excited that Minnesota is growing into a formidable beer state as well," Ryan Libby, marketing director and co-founder, said in a statement the day of the launch.

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