AP Photo/Gregory Bull

There haven’t been this many suds-makers since the late 1800s.

Has America hit peak craft beer?

With more than 1,800 breweries hovering in just the planning stage, it’s hard to say “yes.” But the number of existing suds-makers is certainly at a historical high. There were 4,144 breweries in the U.S. at the end of November, an abundance that breaks the previous record of 4,131 in 1873.

This boozy bulletin comes from the Brewers Association, a craft-beer trade group based in Boulder, Colorado. In its year-in-review report, the association highlights this brew news from across the nation:

  • Brewery openings now exceed two a day.
  • Fifteen states are now home to more than 100 breweries: California, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana.
  • IPA remained the top style sold by independent craft brewers, and continues to grow faster than the overall craft category.
  • Data shows that “locally made” is important to over half of craft beer buyers.

Beer has spread across the land with the speed of a brown, fizzy tsunami, to believe the association’s timeline of brewing landmarks. Artisanal burp-juice fell out of favor in the decades after Prohibition—there were fewer than 100 breweries in the U.S. in 1978—but started making a fierce comeback in recent years. The number of breweries climbed up to 1,000 in 1996, 2,000 in 2011, and 3,000 in 2014, a year when craft beer snagged 11 percent of the market share by volume. (It had just 1 percent in 1994.)

While some research indicates per-capita beer consumption is actually declining across the country, there’s never been a better time to savor a brew made from smoked whale testicles, Louisiana swamp water (blessed by a voodoo priestess, of course), and other crazily sourced beverages.

One important note: If we’re going by brewery-to-person ratio, we still have a long way to go to beat the old record. Today’s population of 322,274,000 equates to one brewery for every 78,000 people; the 1870 population of 38,558,000 meant there was a thirst-slaking brewery for every 9,300 people.

The number and type of brewing facilities until the end of 2014. (Brewers Association)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: bicyclists in Paris during a transit strike in December.
    Transportation

    Paris Mayor: It's Time for a '15-Minute City'

    In her re-election campaign, Mayor Anne Hidalgo says that every Paris resident should be able to meet their essential needs within a short walk or bike ride.

  2. photo: a wallet full of Yen bills.
    Life

    Japan’s Lost-and-Found System Is Insanely Good

    If you misplace your phone or wallet in Tokyo, chances are very good that you’ll get it back. Here’s why.

  3. Equity

    What Mike Bloomberg Got Wrong About Redlining and the Financial Crisis

    Comments about New Deal-era housing discrimination made by presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg echo a familiar narrative about minority homeowners.

  4. Equity

    The Presidential Candidates that Mayors Support

    Big-city mayors favor Mike Bloomberg after his late entry into the race, while leaders in smaller cities have lined up behind Pete Buttigieg.

  5. photo: Masdar City in Abu Dhabi
    Environment

    What Abu Dhabi’s City of the Future Looks Like Now

    At the UN’s World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, attendees toured Masdar City, the master-planned eco-complex designed to show off the UAE’s commitment to sustainability.

×