About 70,000 Americans are directly employed by breweries.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 21, 2019
Credit: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

For many people, working in the beer industry might be considered a “dream job” — especially if it was a position that offered regular liquid perks. Well, according to a recent study from two major beer trade groups, plenty of people are actually living the dream. The 2018 Beer Serves America report finds that about 70,000 people are directly employed by brewers and beer importers, and when you include additional jobs generated by the beer industry, slinging suds supports 2.1 million American jobs overall.

The economic analysis of the beer industry — which comes courtesy of the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute — suggests that beer contributes $328 billion to the U.S. economy, impacting 514 of 536 economic sectors and accounting for 1.6 percent of U.S. GDP. When looking at employment numbers, the report states that each brewing job supports 31 other full-time jobs, the bulk of which are in retail, but that also includes plenty of positions with wholesalers, manufacturers, and farmers. (Gotta grow those hops and barley!)

However, beyond this broader analysis, the report includes some interesting smaller tidbits as well. For instance, though “overall volumes of beer sales are actually down by about 2.4 percent over 2016, brewing jobs have increased by 8.0 percent,” the report states. “This represents tremendous growth in micro and brewpub employment as well as growth in higher margin products from all brewers.” To put it another way, the craft beer boom continues to create more opportunities for people who actually want to brew beer for a living. The number of other brewery jobs is up as well: 5,180 more people work in breweries than two years ago.

Finally, looking at the retail sector, the report addresses another trend head-on. “Beer retailing jobs are down slightly since 2016, which reflects a number of factors including reduced demand for malt beverages and general weakness in the retail economy,” Beer Serves America states. But later, the report touches on another factor as well: “There continues to be a shift away from less expensive products to more expensive local and ‘craft’ beers in bars and restaurants, as well as to imports. Consumers purchase smaller volumes of these higher priced beers than they do of less expensive domestic light lagers and pilsners, suggesting that fewer employees are required to serve beer in a given bar or tavern.” We’ve definitely seen suspicions that one of the reasons beer volumes have declined isn’t that people are simply drinking less beer, but replacing bulk with quality. However, the fact that this report suggests this switch is also impacting bar staff employment is an intriguing leap.