As Derek notes in the the announcement to this Session, “the latest brewery numbers recently released from the Brewer’s Association, [...] counted exactly 2,126 breweries in the United States. To put that into context, you have to go way back to 1887 when the United States had that many breweries. It’s an astonishing 47% increase from just five years ago in 2007 when the tally was a mere 1,449, despite the United States slowly recovering from a serious recession over this period. And according to the Brewers Association, another whopping 1,252 breweries are in the planning stages.” To clear everything up, I can tell you that there will be 2589.5 breweries in the United States in 2017. The half is to prevent ties.
If I were to base my guess on what is happening in Dayton, OH, the town I live in, I’d actually have to go a lot higher. When I moved here in 2006, there was nothing in terms of local breweries. While there was a fantastic German-American brewing history, and there had even been some recent attempts and failures prior to my arrival, no one was up and running when I showed up on the scene. All that should change shortly. Currently, there is one small brewery that has recently opened, Dayton Beer Company, as well as several others that are in the planning stages: Yellow Springs Brewery, Toxic Brew Company, Fifth Street Brewpub (which is planned as a co-op collective, and yes, I am a member), Eudora Brewing Company, and Vitruvian Brewing Company. There may be more I don’t know about as well. Will they all actually end up open? I don’t know. Can they all survive? Again, you’re probably asking the wrong guy. But I will say that it is exciting to hope. I do think that higher numbers are sustainable, albeit with at least one big caveat: it will depend upon how these breweries market themselves on the local scale. I do think that 3-4 local, small scale breweries can be sustained within a city the size of Dayton, specifically if there is not cutthroat competition by one or more to take over and drive the others out. If growth becomes the model that these breweries pursue, however, I would expect to see the numbers drop, not only locally, but nationally—I think that the caveat I am offering here plays well beyond the Dayton region limits. I would like to imagine Dayton—and the United States writ large—with more local, fresh, and most importantly good, beer. And while I understand that markets dictate a need to sell beer as a product, the dream of becoming the next big thing is certainly not sustainable with the numbers provided by the Brewer’s Association. Then again, I read books for a living, so what the hell do I know?