New numbers for San Diego beer jobs and sales

Craft beer grew. Ballast Point grew more.

Ballast Point made and sold over a quarter million barrels of beer in 2015 — accounting for roughly 1/8th of all San Diego beer sales.
  • Ballast Point made and sold over a quarter million barrels of beer in 2015 — accounting for roughly 1/8th of all San Diego beer sales.

This week, the National University System Institute for Policy Research issued its annual survey of San Diego craft-beer sales and employment, compiling figures for 2015. As expected, the results show continued brewery sales and jobs growth, despite a stagnation in wages.

Changes to the survey's methodology and the departure of two brewing companies from the "craft" category make comparisons to previously reported 2014 numbers a little complicated.

Senior policy analyst Vince Vasquez, the author of the study, says the new numbers reflect more accurate estimates based on improved samplings of local breweries and brewpubs. Consequently, last year's survey estimated $847 million in overall sales has been revised to $726 million in this year's update.

For 2015, sales of San Diego craft beer rose to $734 million — which doesn't immediately sound like a big jump. However, that number does not include sales numbers of breweries Ballast Point and Saint Archer, which are no longer considered a part of the "craft" market due to their respective sales to outside corporations.

Including those two breweries, overall sales of San Diego–produced beer rose to an estimated $851 million, which tops even the previous estimate. Based on the revised numbers, this shows an increase of $125 million over 2014 sales — roughly 17 percent growth.

It also reveals a whopping $117 million in revenue from those no-longer-craft breweries. The bulk of that represents the stunning growth of Ballast Point, offering insight into its billion-dollar price tag. The Union-Tribune reports Ballast Point's sales and revenue more than doubled in 2015, going from 102,575 to 250,218 barrels, with more than 50 percent of that credited to its line of Sculpin IPAs. Saint Archer produced an estimated 17,000 barrels in 2015.

In another report released this week, the Brewers Association named the top 50 craft breweries in the nation by sales volume. While Ballast Point will be excluded from this list in 2016, this year's growth vaulted 20 spots, from the 31st largest craft brewery to the 11th. That puts it just behind Stone Brewing, down a spot from last year to number 10 (it traded spots with Wisconsin's Minhaus Brewery).

Meanwhile, the National University report also revised San Diego's jobs numbers for 2015, placing a focus on brewing and brewery employees, excluding ancillary restaurant employees such as chefs, dishwashers, and wait staff. Consequently, previous assessments of 6203 brewery jobs in 2014 were reduced to 3752. Under the new methodology, 2015 jobs rose to 4512 — 4005 of those still deemed craft positions. It indicates 50 percent of those employees work part-time positions, fewer than 20 hours per week.

Citing Department of Labor statistics, the report places the average brewery wage in San Diego at $36,816 per year (adjusted to reflect full-time earnings). While this shows a decrease from 2014, the number is on par with other craft-brewing hubs Portland, Oregon ($36,608), and Boulder, Colorado ($36,400), and significantly higher than averages in Denver, Colorado and Asheville, North Carolina.

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