Craft beer is big, and Virginia is a leader

WASHINGTON — The number of small and independent craft brewers in the U.S. is at a record high, and Virginia has staked its claim as one of the leaders in the industry.

Last year, Virginia was among four states to see a net increase of more than 20 breweries, and it just landed another big one: Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery, whose beers include Fresh Squeezed IPA, announced plans Tuesday to invest $85 million in its first East Coast production facility, in Roanoke.  It will employ a little more than 100 people when it opens.

“We’ve really seen Virginia come online as a great craft brewery destination in recent years,” Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist, tells WTOP.

“We’ve seen the South and the Southeast really come online, and Virginia is benefiting from that, and I think we’ve just seen demand preferences change in the state, with more people shifting toward fuller-flavored products from small and independent brewers.”

Nationwide, the Brewers Association, based in Boulder, Colorado, says craft brewers have seen double-digit growth in eight of the last 10 years. The number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew 15 percent last year alone, to 4,269 breweries.

Of those, 2,397 are classified as microbreweries; 1,650 are brewpubs and 178 are regional craft breweries. The Brewers Association says 620 new breweries opened last year.

In 2015, craft brewers produced 24.5 million barrels, and saw a 16 percent increase in retail dollar value.

Craft brewers now represent 12 percent market share of the overall beer industry, but because of their typically premium-priced beers, the estimated $22.3 billion in retail sales last year represents 21 percent of the retail dollar value market share.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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