The Economic Impact of San Diego Craft Beer Has Passed the $1 Billion Threshold

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The Economic Impact of San Diego Craft Beer Has Passed the $1 Billion Threshold

Break out your emergency reserve comma, folks.

For the first time ever, the city of San Diego can boast that the economic impact of its craft brewing industry has exceeded the $1 billion mark. The news comes via the San Diego Brewers Guild, which released its annual economic impact report today. The big number: $1.1 billion, which is the total calculated economic impact for the craft beer industry as a whole in San Diego in 2017. That’s up massively from an already gaudy $870 million in 2016—a 26.4% increase, year over year.

Suffice to say, these are some pretty heady numbers, which serve to illustrate just how far the craft beer industry has come since the days when American pale ale was a charming novelty as an alternative to mass-produced industrial lager. The number above takes into account all 148 listed craft brewers in San Diego County, a number that ranks #1 in the nation in terms of total craft breweries within a single county. It’s little wonder the San Diego Brewers Guild markets the city as the “Capital of Craft,” which is difficult to dispute.

Among the other interesting statistics in the report:

— San Diego County craft breweries generated more than $800 million in revenue in 2017, a number that surpasses the hometown San Diego Padres.

— The industry as a whole is estimated to have employed as many as 6,275 people in 2017.

— San Diego County craft breweries contributed more than $4.9 million to non-profit organizations in 2017.

The report also gives an illustration of some of the universal challenges being faced by the beer industry today—namely, the shrinking of the overall beer market, which decreased by 1.2 percent in volume in 2017. The craft segment, however, continued to grow, increasing its share to roughly 12.7 percent of the entire beer market—albeit at a slower growth rate than in the past, which has sent up no small number of warning lights and “woe is me” editorials in 2018.

In particular, it seems to be larger regional craft breweries that are now bearing the brunt of market pressures, as slowing growth but unabated brewery openings see their sales being cannibalized by smaller, more local, more nimble competitors. The below chart from the economic impact report illustrates this nicely, showcasing the growth of production in breweries classified as “microbreweries” and “brewpubs,” rather than larger regional craft brewers, which actually peaked in volume back in 2015.

san diego beer report chart inset (Custom).jpg

That chart makes it all too clear exactly why this is a scary time to be a larger, regional craft brewery—as illustrated in 2018 by the likes of Green Flash, Mendocino and Smuttynose—but also illuminates the opportunities available to small microbreweries that aren’t seeking rapid growth. Still, once can’t help but wonder if the pace of openings will have to ease up at least a little bit in 2019.

In San Diego, though, craft beer remains ascendant. Now, who’s up for hitting all 148 breweries before New Year’s Day?

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