By Mike Pomranz
Updated April 15, 2015
© worldthroughthelens / Alamy

The brewery business is booming all over the country—but in one region, not so much. Despite a doubling of the number of breweries in the US in the past five years, the South still typically has fewer breweries per capita than any other region. In 2012, for instance, Vermont had one brewery for every 25,040 people; meanwhile, Mississippi, home of just three breweries at the time, had one for every 994,975 people.

Stephan Gohmann, an economics professor at the University of Louisville (and presumably a man who likes a good pint), decided to look into the phenomenon. His study, “Why Are There So Few Breweries in the South?” published last year in the journal Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, argues that government and religious opposition play a key role.

Louisville Business First spoke to Gohmann in a piece earlier this week, attempting to better understand his argument. Not surprisingly, Gohmann found that states with more government restrictions on breweries had fewer breweries. But part of what’s driving those government restrictions are two unlikely bedfellows: large breweries and Baptists.

According to his research, Baptists have been one of the most outspoken religious groups when it comes to opposing alcohol sales and consumption, even more so than other groups like Mormons. Ironically, however, big breweries like Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors have found that states with large Baptist populations can be some of their biggest allies. By using their large financial resources to back politicians in these states, the big brewers—who are already well-established in these regions and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon—can support legislation to restrict beer distribution and sales, keeping new local competition at bay.

Regardless of where you stand on drinking, Gohmann says that having more breweries “causes economic growth.” And certain states, like North Carolina, are bucking the trend. “North Carolina is becoming the new Colorado,” the professor suggested. Still, in other states, it appears that special interest groups may be trumping demand.