The Brewers Association—a trade organization dedicated to small and independent American brewers—released their 2014 Craft Beer in Review yesterday, and it confirmed what you’ve probably already noticed: craft beer is bigger than ever. The huge increases in breweries is remarkable, though.
According to the association's statistics, the US now has more than 3,200 breweries. That’s by far the largest number since the 19th century, an era when everything had to be more localized and independent, thanks to the limitations of travel and distribution.
To put things in perspective, that's about double the number of breweries America had in 2009—just five short years ago—and more than five times the number of breweries we had 20 years ago.
Probably the most striking statistics, however, are how much growth happened in 2014 alone. The Brewers Association reports that “breweries are opening at a rate of 1.5 per day.” Per day! That comes out to a new brewery every 16 hours! And things aren’t going to slow down anytime soon: 2,000 breweries are currently in the planning stage. If you’ve suddenly noticed that everyone you know with a homebrewing kit has been floating the idea of opening a brewery recently, turns out you’re not alone.
The beer industry is seeing the fastest growth in brewery openings that it’s seen since the 1990s, which is recognized as the first craft beer bubble. That bubble began to pop around 2000, and for most of the aughts, brewery numbers either declined or remained relatively stable. It doesn’t seem far-fetched to think another brewery bubble could burst any year now. But that doesn’t mean craft beer is set to slow down. The Brewers Association also points out that sales of India pale ales, the unofficial mascot of the craft beer revolution, were up 49 percent this past year. As long as there’s always an infinite number of ways to turn malt into alcohol, there’ll be people who want to prove they can do it better than anyone else.