The golden apogee of USA brewing occurred in 1870. That year, there were 3,286 breweries in the U.S., the most ever. By 1979, the gold had been burgled. Barely 44 breweries remained. 1
Then —as the Coasters didn't sing— "Along came Craft."
At the close of last year (December 2013), the U.S. was home to two-thousand seven-hundred and twenty-two breweries (with an additional one-thousand seven-hundred and forty-four breweries in planning, almost half-again as many!). Looking at this in another way, in 2012, there were 2,403 breweries; thus, in one year, there was a 13.275 % increase in the number of U.S. breweries.
Here is the breakdown of these statistics, as just released by the Brewers Association (BA) —an advocacy group for U.S. breweries which produce fewer than 6-million barrels of beer per year. 2
- Brewpubs: 1202
A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on site.
- Microbreweries: 1376
A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels per year with 75% or more sold off-site.
- Regional breweries: 120
A brewery with an annual beer production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels. [That's a big spread!]
- Large breweries: 24
Breweries producing more than six million barrels of beer per year.
Other than those for brewpubs, all the definitions are the BA's alone, not legal or governmental distinctions. The BA further restricts it membership, based on independence (less than 25% owned by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not itself a craft brewery) and tradition (a brewery whose flagship beer is all-malt or whose production consists, 50% or more, of all malt beers). Using those criteria, 98% of the breweries operating in 2013 were, indeed, 'craft' breweries. 3
One of those 2,722 breweries was the Heritage Brewing Company. And, this Manassas, Virginia, brewery might have just been the 2,722nd, precisely. Heritage opened its doors to the public, for the first time ever, on New Year's Eve.
That's an auspicious start.
- The 1979 brewery count: Beer Institute. 1
- Read the entire BA press release, dated 15 January 2014: here. 2
- Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors are not American-owned. Pabst owns no breweries; it is, in effect, a marketing company. Thus, the largest American-owned brewery is Yuengling, family owned and the oldest brewing company in the United States. Boston Beer —maker of the Sam Adams beers— is the second-largest. Yuengling Lager —Yuengling's flagship beer— is brewed with a hefty proportion of corn. As the BA does not consider corn to be 'traditional' —a stipulation that is historically fallacious— it refuses to recognize Yuengling as a small and independent brewery. 3
- Here is the list of the top 10 breweries (and 'craft' breweries) in the U.S. during 2012.
- A barrel of a beer is the equivalent of 31 U.S. gallons, or 13.7 cases of beer (twenty-four 12-ounce cans or bottles).