Craft brewing contributes $79bn a year to US economy

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

“Beer lovers are spending their dollars by supporting small and independent brewers in their local communities and across the country, and its positive impact is evident nationwide.” Pic: Getty/ChiccoDodiFC
“Beer lovers are spending their dollars by supporting small and independent brewers in their local communities and across the country, and its positive impact is evident nationwide.” Pic: Getty/ChiccoDodiFC

Related tags Craft beer Craft brewers Brewers association Economic development labor

Craft brewers contributed $79.1bn to the US economy and employed 559,545 people in 2018, according to the latest figures from the Brewers Association.

The Brewers Association (BA) has released its annual economic impact report, analyzing activity in all 50 US states. It conducted two national surveys in combination with government and market data to compile the report. 

Only small, independent brewers were included in the study, and it excluded non-beer products of the brewers like cider and flavored malt beverages.

The total jobs impact of craft brewers supported 559,545 people in 2018, and 150,055 held direct jobs at breweries. More than $5bn in wages and benefits went to brewery employees last year.

California made the largest economic contribution of $9bn, followed by Pennsylvania with $6.3bn, Texas with $5.1bn, New York with $4.1bn and Florida with $3.6bn. BA said that the economic contribution numbers were calculated using an input-output analysis that breaks economic output into three parts--direct, indirect and induced impacts.

The direct value chain used estimates of the national and state retail markets for craft beer from pricing, sales volume, and channel-specific share data across both on- and off-premise channels, BA said.

BA impact 1

Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, said “With small breweries in every state and nearly every congressional district in the country, craft brewers are a vital and growing part of the economy in cities and towns all across the country.

“Beer lovers are spending their dollars by supporting small and independent brewers in their local communities and across the country, and its positive impact is evident nationwide.”

New Jersey vs New Mexico?

Contribution per capita for adults over 21 was led by Colorado at $780 (output/capita), Vermont at $756, Oregon with $674, Pennsylvania with $657 and Maine with $631.

California employs the most people in the industry (61,335) followed by Pennsylvania (43,488), Texas (31,177) and Florida (27,543).

However, the cost of labor varies across the country, fluctuating labor income for the top employing states. New Jersey offers the highest average wage in the industry by a wide margin at $84,830, employing 10,948 people.

Washington DC offers the next highest average at $68,469, though it only employs 1,469 people. New York has the third-highest salary at $60,970, employing 26,789 people. Connecticut and California also have high wages at just over $56,000 each.

New Mexico craft brewers offer their employees the lowest rates, at $32,921 on average. This is followed by Montana at $35,290, South Dakota at $36,279 and Mississippi at $38,217.

Craft brewery volumes​ account for 13.2% of the US beer market, growing at around 4%.

In value terms, the market takes a 24.1% market share, reaching $27.6bn (7% growth). 

BA has been releasing similar impact reports for several years, with minimal changes to the methodology. But it said the current studies use an updated retail value model because better on-premise data was available to create a more accurate state-by-state estimate of the on-premise market.

BA also updated how at-the-brewery sales revenues were calculated by integrating Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) premises use data, to better represent states with low survey coverage.

“As consumers continue to demand a wide range of high quality, full-flavored beers, small and independent craft brewers are meeting this growing demand with innovative offerings, creating high levels of economic value in the process,” ​Watson said.

Global craft beer recognition

Growth in US craft beer has been strong enough for investment in overseas expansion, according to BA. The organization hired Lotte Peplow and Yandong Lu as its craft beer ambassadors in Europe and China, respectively.

This is an extension of BA’s Export Development Program, funded by grants from the USDA. Since the program began in 2004, American craft beer exports have increased by 1,400%, according to the BA.

Peplow will educate, inform trade and industry and raise the profile of American craft beer amongst beer drinkers based out of London. Lu will do the same as a consultant based out of Shanghai.

Steve Parr, export development program manager at BA, said “The variety of high-quality, full-flavored beers being produced by the nearly 7,500 small and independent American craft brewers today is unparalleled anywhere else in the world, and consumer demand expands far beyond our nation’s borders. The hiring of both ambassadors is a big leap forward in helping our members grow their businesses overseas.”

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