Each year The Beer Institute requests active ‘permitted brewery’ data from the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). According to the 2013 data analyzed, the United States now has a record-high 3,699 active ‘permitted breweries’ — 948 of which were new permits last year. It is important to note that permit counts can be different than brewery counts as some brewers own more than one brewery, but nonetheless the 2013 data signifies impressive growth.
The ongoing emergence of the U.S. craft beer market has been well documented in the past couple of years, but an interesting takeaway is the fact that the majority of new permits are going to brewpubs — not larger production facilities. A possible explanation from The Beer Institute is as follows:
Under the existing tax structure, small brewers (defined by U.S. Tax Code as those that produce up to 2 million 31-gallon barrels per year, or the equivalent of 110 million six-packs) receive a substantial break on federal excise tax, paying only $7 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels. The regular tax rate is $18 per barrel, which is paid by all brewers of more than 2 million barrels, all beer importers regardless of size, and on every barrel produced by small brewers beyond 60,000.
More than 90 percent of permitted breweries today produce less than 60,000 barrels annually.
Another staggering — though perhaps unsurprising — fact is that one-third of all breweries permitted in the United States are concentrated into four states: California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon. Minnesota’s “brewery boom” pails a bit when compared to the growth in the aforementioned states. Minnesota permitted 16 new breweries in 2012, ranking in a tie for 15th in the country in that category.
Bring on the saturation point conversation. Craft beer’s fervent and growing consumer base is eager to prove the naysayers wrong.