The number of breweries in the area has practically tripled in the last five years.
Recently, we've seen a lot of examples of just how quickly the brewery scene has exploded in America. Yesterday, the Brewers Association revealed numbers showing that about one in every six breweries in the country has opened in the past year. That kind of growth has meant that even cities once devoid of many great breweries, like New York City, can suddenly be in the discussion as potential best beer cities in the world. Now, more new data this week reveals that Chicago might also belong in that discussion — especially if you value the cold hard number of "most breweries."
According to the Chicago Tribune, citing data compiled by the Brewers Association's Chief Economist Bart Watson, Chicago now has more breweries than any other metro area in the entire country: 167 in total. Rounding out the rest of the top six are a mix of traditional American beer meccas and the two largest cities in the country: Denver with 158 breweries, Seattle with 153 breweries, San Diego with 150 breweries, Los Angeles with 146 breweries, and New York with 141 breweries. Keep in mind, these numbers include the surrounding urban areas as determined by the Census Bureau, so urban sprawl provides a bit of help, and the list would change significantly if determined per capita.
However, don't let those qualifiers detract from just how far Chicago has come. Watson apparently last crunched the number on breweries per city back in 2013, and in just five years, the changes are pretty dramatic. Here was that 2013 list: Seattle with 87 breweries, Portland with 77 breweries, San Diego with 76 breweries, Denver with 63 breweries, and Chicago with 62 breweries. Nationally, the number of breweries in the U.S. has more than doubled since 2013 from 2,952 to somewhere over 7,000, but even then, the number of brewers in the Chicago area has increased an even larger 270 percent.
"I don't think Chicago is thought of with places like Seattle or Portland," Watson told the Tribune. "But certainly these numbers underscore a huge development in Chicago's brewing scene in the last few years." You don't need a degree in economics to notice that.