San Diego ranks as eighth most popular beer destination

...as U.S. brewery count tops 5000

This year has seen about 20 new breweries open in San Diego County, with 16 of them new entities.
  • This year has seen about 20 new breweries open in San Diego County, with 16 of them new entities.
  • Photo © Brewers Association

In a press release timed to coincide with the 83rd anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition (December 5), national trade group the Brewers Association announced that the number of active breweries in the U.S. has surpassed 5000, with more than 99 percent of them deemed small and independent craft breweries. Specifically, the number cited is 5005, but since the Association counted 4269 only a year ago, that means an average of two breweries per day opened within the U.S. in 2016, and the actual number has likely risen since the announcement.

By comparison, the press release noted there are more than 10,000 wineries active in the U.S., suggesting that there is still market space for a further increase in the coming year. Nevertheless, the Association's midyear numbers indicate a slower rate of growth in the craft beer segment. As of June, the segment had experienced an 8 percent growth by volume, compared to a 13 percent increase in 2015. The Brewers Association plans to compile updated 2016 data after the new year.

In San Diego, the number of new breweries opening in the county has remained steady. About 20 new breweries went online in 2015, representing 18 new beer companies. 2016 has seen about 20 new breweries open, with 16 of them new entities. According to California ABC records, San Diego county currently has 136 licensed breweries representing 119 individual companies. According to West Coaster magazine, there are at least 20 incoming new breweries currently in the planning stages.

Other factoids offered by the Brewers Association contend that, while lagers and other light beer styles make up just 5 percent of craft sales, that demonstrates a 33 percent increase over 2015. Conversely, IPAs account for roughly a quarter of all craft beer sales by volume. That's up from 21 percent two years ago.

While that bodes well for the many IPA-centric breweries calling San Diego home, in terms of beer tourism, America's Finest City has room to make some gains. In October, travel booking website Travelocity issued a Beer Tourism Index, compiling data such as accessibility, cost of lodging, and ride share availability, to name the top 20 metro areas to visit for beer tourism. San Diego ranked 8th, while the top three spots went to Portland, Denver, and Seattle.

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