Maps

The Geography of Craft Beer

Mapping America's craft brewers state-by-state.

Image
Courtesy of Hinterland Brewery

America has more craft beer breweries today than at any other point since 1887. Merriam-Webster added the term to their dictionary this year. Even President Obama has his own brew

The number of breweries is increasing dramatically, according to the Brewers Association,* a trade organization — just take a glance at this nifty chart on their website — and 350 more were added between June and the same time last year. Among these breweries, 97 percent are "craft brewers" — meaning they are relatively low-production, independently owned, and "interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent."

Atlantic Cities' fellow Sara Johnson tracked down the most current brewery figures (through the end of 2011) by state from the Brewers Association, and the Martin Prosperity Institute's Zara Matheson mapped them. 

In terms of sheer numbers, California easily takes the win, as the map below shows. With 261, it has almost double the number of craft breweries as the second-most state, Washington, which has 134. Colorado comes in third with 127, Oregon takes a close fourth with 121, and Michigan rounds out the top five with 102.

Map courtesy of MPI's Zara Matheson, compiled from data provided by the Brewers Association

The numbers look slightly different, however, when we control for population (see the second map below). Vermont now leads with 3.68 breweries per 100,000 people, followed by Montana (3.23) and Oregon (3.16). Alaska, Maine, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, and Wisconsin round out the top 10. New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Michigan are the only other states to have more than 1 craft brewery per 100,000 people.

Map courtesy of MPI's Zara Matheson, 

compiled from data provided by the Brewers Association

Only four states come in the top ten in both both lists (total and per population): Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Wisconsin.

With the help of my colleague Charlotta Mellander, I took a quick look at how the concentration of craft breweries per capita correlates with key state demographic and economic characteristics. As usual, I point out that correlation points only to associations between variables and does not imply causation. Other factors may come into play. Still, this analysis points to a number of interesting patterns.

Given how much craft beer costs, you might think income would play a role, with craft breweries more concentrated in more affluent states. But we found no statistical association between craft breweries and income, wages, or per capita economic output.

Education does factor in: Craft brewing is more concentrated in more highly educated states, with a modest correlation to the share of adults that are college grads (0.32).  

And craft brewing is more closely associated with higher levels of happiness and well-being (0.47). 

On the flip side, craft brewing less likely in conservative states, with a modest negative correlation (-0.3) to 2008 John McCain votes (there was no statistically-significant association to Barack Obama votes).

Craft brewing was far less likely in religious states — the correlation between religion and craft breweries was the strongest of any variables (a whopping -0.75).

Curiously, there was a negative connection between craft breweries and two other unhealthy behaviors or "sins" — smoking (-0.28) and even more so with obesity (-0.54). 

Cities across the country have begun courting craft brewers for economic development, according to a recent post by J. Katie McConnell over at the National League of Cities. "[C]raft breweries have caught the eyes of local officials and economic developers and they are encouraging the development, growth, and attraction of these companies," she writes. Philadelphia and Roanoke, Virginia, used modest incentives to lure West coast brewers. I'm a big fan of craft-beer, but not of incentives to attract craft brewers. As with anything else, incentives do little to create new jobs or development, instead simply moving them around. A number of places have begun to support efforts to fuel more organic growth, according to McConnell. Asheville, North Carolina, for example, has encouraged the development of its local craft beer cluster. The North Carolina Hops Project "is experimenting with local hop production," she notes, and the state's Craft Beverage Regional Exchange Group aims to strengthen the growing network of craft brewers by hosting seminars on brewing techniques and best management practices.   

Top image: Courtesy of Hinterland Brewery in Wisconsin

*Correction: In a previous version of this article, the association's name was misspelled "Brewer's Association." The correct spelling is "Brewers Association."

About the Author

  • Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More
    Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here