Graphic courtesy Brewers Association.


California led the nation last year in economic activity related to craft brewing, with $4.7 billion, according to a new analysis by the Brewers Association, a craft beer trade group.

As an industry, craft brewing generated $33.9 billion in economic activity in 2012, the association said. That includes sales and payroll from brewhouses through distributors onto retail stores and bars. It also includies merchandise and related sales by brewpubs.

“With a strong presence across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, craft breweries are a vibrant and flourishing economic force at the local, state and national level,” said staff economist Bart Watson in a release detailing the study.

California’s economic activity more than doubled its nearest competitor, Texas, with $2.3 billion. New york came in at $2.2 billion; Pennsylvania at $2 billion, and Colorado rounded out the top five at $1.6 billion.

California didn’t show so well in per capita activity related to beer, not even placing in the top five. Oregon and Colorado took top spots in per capita spending by drinking age residents, with $448.56 and $436.50 respectively. California’s per capita spending was a mere $172.99, putting it number 17, behind New Mexico but above Washington, D.C.

The bottom dwellers were South Dakota, with less than $75 million in economic effect and Florida, with just $60.04 in per capita beer spending.

The BA study didn’t break the activity down to local levels, but a study by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board  earlier this year found that craft brewing generated $123 million for the county economy in 2012; $2.4 million alone was from the annual two-week release of Russian River’s Pliny the Younger triple IPA. The next Pliny release is set for Feb. 7.

The BA survey said there were 2,347  U.S. craft breweries in operation in 2012, making more than 13 million barrels of beer. or more than 403 million gallons, and supporting 360,000 direct and indirect jobs.

– Sean Scully

UPDATE – a commenter rightly raises the question of how these numbers stack up to the pervasive California wine industry. The Wine Institute estimates that the wine business generated $61.5 billion in economic activity in California in 2012, $128.5 billion nationally. Of course, the beer data includes only craft brewers, and they account for around 10 percent of the overall beer market.