The growth of craft breweries: How many is too many?

Look around your city. Head out to your favorite bar. There’s a common theme emerging: craft beer is America’s new obsession.

From lagers to porters to ambers and beyond, craft breweries are offering up tasty alternatives to the nation’s 11 national breweries that own up to 90 percent of the beer in the US.

Let’s take a brief look at when this obsession started and whether or not this is a good thing for those of us who love beer.

The Explosion of Craft Breweries

According to the Brewers Association, the number of craft breweries in the United States in 1942 reached about 500. By the year 2000, that number had risen to 1,500. Seventeen years later and we have now reached the all-time high for craft breweries weighing in at over 5,300 independent breweries throughout the states.

The only other time we even came close to that number was in the late 1800s, which was long before prohibition and the monopolization of the industry. And even though the number of breweries might be relatively close now to what it was back then, you have to keep in mind that the population of the United States was much smaller back then.

In the 1870s there was approximately 1 brewery for every 11,000 people. To do that today we’d have to have some 30,000 breweries, a heck of a lot more than the 5,000 we have today.

And that number continues to rise. Independent brewers take their craft seriously and are absorbing ancient recipes and modern technology to create new species of beer.

Craft Beer Diversity- Why It Matters

Despite the growing number of craft breweries, over 90 percent of the beer available is still brewed by just 11 companies as we mentioned earlier. What does that mean for beer lovers? It means less variety and lower quality.

However, the good news is that this is beginning to change, little by little, and with each new brewery new flavors of beer emerge, giving beer lovers more options to choose from. The growing number of brewers are discovering new ways to brew, reviving lost or forgotten styles, and putting new twists on classic styles.  And it’s not just beer. Local brewers are using local ingredients and brewing beer with true local favor!

So the next time someone says to you there are too many breweries, let them know we still need another 25,000 just to catch up with the 1800s.