The Brewer’s Association just released a statement that we’ve hit 2000 US Craft breweries. There are 2051 breweries, 51 of them are domestic, and the 2000 number doesn’t include contract brewers, just actual physical breweries. Whoazas!
As we’ve approached B2K many people have asked if we’re going to hit some sort of saturation point and my thought has always been that this probably won’t happen until we can all conveniently walk to our nearest brewery. Perhaps I am wrong on this, but beer is a social drink and the less I have to drive to drink it, the more likely I am to grab a pal and consume it. Perhaps we’ll see the market become so full that the newer folks, the newest innovators that want to start great new breweries won’t be as welcomed. That would be a loss.
On our roadtrip last week we found that not only are there all sorts of new breweries opening up (we must have visited ten breweries that opened in the last two years), but the new breweries and old breweries alike are expanding. 1 barrel brewers moving to 7 barrels, 7 barrels to 15, 12 barrels to 30. A few breweries are opening up entire new production facilities. Even here in Colorado Springs I know of four breweries that are expanding, doubling their capacity (or more), and Trinity just finished their expansion.
One thing I heard a lot from the newer breweries is “We just can’t get the type of hop we want to make the type of IPA we want.” Now, that’s a situation to think about. Perhaps the expansion and opening of breweries is outpacing the ability to produce raw beer ingredients. One brewery said there was a two year wait-list for a certain type of hop. I had never thought about it until last week, but perhaps expansions will hasten the saturation point, if there is to be one, and unfortunately that will not do well for my idyllic vision of “walkable breweries for all.”