By the Numbers: Small Beer's Big Year

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If you’re a beer drinker and variety is your thing, you’re in luck. You could now drink a beer from a different American brewery every single day for more than thirteen and a half years (13.5 years!) and never have to return to the same brewery twice.

That’s because, according to a recent report from the Brewers Association, a trade association focused on small and independent United States brewers, the number of breweries in the U.S. has climbed, as of the end of November, to a record-setting 5,005.

Thanks to the craft-beer movement, the growth in the number of U.S. breweries has been ticking up steadily following a low point in 1978, when, according to an interactive association timeline, there were fewer than 50 brewing companies and less than 100 brewing facilities in America, and beer drinkers mostly drank big-company brew. But after the federal government legalized home brewing that year, the number of breweries started to swell.

By 1996, there were about 1,000 breweries in the U.S., marking a return to pre-Prohibition numbers. By 2011, that number had doubled to 2,000 breweries, and craft breweries constituted a 6 percent share in the U.S. beer market.

The next major milestone, 3,000 breweries, was reached in 2014, with craft brewers accounting for 11 percent of the beer market share by volume. And by the end of last year, there were a record 4,144 U.S. breweries, topping the previous record number: 4,131, in 1873, before the market began to consolidate.

A few other facts and figures, from the Brewers Association report, to put in your pint glass:

99: The percentage of all U.S. breweries that are small, indie craft brewers.

8: The percentage of growth seen by U.S. craft brewers.

25: The percentage of craft beer sales, by volume, that are IPAs.

5: The percentage of craft beer sales, by volume, that are “sessionable” beers, such as Pilsners and pale lagers and ales.

65: The percentage of craft beer fans who cite “variety” as the reason they drink craft beers.

63: The percentage of beer drinkers who choose their beer based on the food they’re eating with it.

1.2 million: The number of Americans who homebrew beer.

446,151: The number of barrels of American craft beer exported in 2015. (They’re worth about $116 million.)

1: The rank of Portland, Oregon, among major metro areas, for beer tourism. Apparently “beercations” are now a thing.

That’s a lot to drink in.

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Photo: iStock