In the grand scheme of things, beer isn't that important. Of course, in the small scheme, it's critical. And so you should be apprised of a couple of stats that amazed this long-time beer watcher. They come from the Oregon Brewers Guild's Director, Brian Butenscheon.
The Oregon Brewers Guild announced today that Oregon’s breweries crafted 1,085,000 barrels (or roughly 270 million pints) of beer during 2010, a 3.5 percent increase from the previous year. Roughly 14.4 percent of the 2.7 million barrels of all beer – both bottled and draft – consumed in the state were made in Oregon. This is the highest for any state in the United States and was a 16 percent increase from 2009.
In case these numbers need a bit of unpacking, here it is. Craft beer has a shade under a 5% market share nationwide. Brian is the head of the Brewers Guild, so he's interested in how much Oregon-brewed beer we drink in Oregon. But we don't only drink Oregon-brewed craft beer. Add all the craft from other states, and well above 15% of the beer consumed in the state is craft-brewed.
The reason that's possible is because we've nurtured a local industry. That means consumers--famously parochial here in Oregon--but it also includes state and local government, who make it very easy to open a brewery or brewpub. I was recently interviewing a Coby Lake at the just-opened Avondale Brewery in Birmingham, AL. He and his brother were designing the bar in the tasting room of their pub even though it was illegal at the time. (Last month, Alabama passed a lesser version of the brewpub law Oregonians passed in the mid-80s making brewpubs legal).
The result? More from Butenscheon:
Portland, Oregon currently has 40 breweries within its city limits, more than any other city in the world. The state of Oregon has 91 brewing companies operating 121 brewing facilities in 50 cities.
And those breweries--among the most dense per capita in the US--are great for Oregon:
Oregon’s 81 brewing companies donated product and money equal to more than $1.23 million to local non-profits in 2010. Retail sales of Oregon-made beer sold in the state totaled approximately $235 million in 2010. In total, the brewing industry contributes $2.44 billion to the state’s economy. Despite overall weak employment figures for the year in Oregon, the state’s brewing companies added 200 jobs in 2010 and directly employed more than 4,900 people.
There's a reason we call it Beervana. Raise a glass and toast our good fortune.