The Beeriest State Outpaces the Country

The Oregon Brewers Guild released numbers for 2016, and once again Oregon outperformed the nation. Each year I offer up Oregon as a potential future state of existence for the rest of the country, but for the first time I'm beginning to wonder if that's true--or perhaps we're just an anomaly. First, let's jump to some of the key numbers.

  • "707,000 barrels of beer consumed by Oregonians in 2016 were made by an Oregon brewery, an 8.7 percent increase from 2015." Pay attention to how these numbers are characterized. They don't reflect the amount of craft beer sold in the state, just the beer sold in the state that was made here. So Craft Brewers Alliance, 10 Barrel (ABI), and Hop Valley (MillerCoors) are included, while Sierra Nevada (CA), New Belgium (CO), and any other non-Oregon brewery are not. Oregon beer increased 8.7% while craft beer nationally increased just 6%.
  • "Beer consumption increased in 2016, with 23.3 percent of the 3.04 million barrels of all beer (both bottled and draft) consumed in the state were made in Oregon." This is one of the more remarkable stats--it's twice the national consumption of craft beer--and it substantially understates good-beer consumption in Oregon. Add in national craft beer consumption and Oregon consumes something north of 25% craft, and it may be edging close to one-third.
  • Finally, the sort-of bad news. " Barrel production in the state increased by 4.8 percent in 2016, coming in at a grand total of 1,782,000 barrels." Oregon breweries (there are no mass market facilities in the state) slightly underperformed national trends, but that's in part because national trends were also slowing. The Oregon good-beer market continues to grow, despite already being the largest in the state.

Oh, and here's one more eye-popper:

Oregon draft beer consumption stole an even larger market share, with Oregon breweries producing an estimated 64.9 percent of all draft beer consumed in the state.
— Oregon Brewers Guild

Oregon now has 230 breweries, 70 in Portland (105 in the metro area), and generates over $4 billion dollars for the state. All of this is very good. But can other states replicate it? Seeing growth outpace the national trend makes me wonder. In Oregon, beer has gone beyond fad and has become embedded deeply in the fabric our our lives. It's available everywhere, and seems nearly as popular among women and older folks (I can say that now since I'm one) as young men. It's a bit hard to imagine Oregon without its breweries.

And that's the rub; it is possible to imagine other places without their breweries. Oregon is anomalous because things have become so solidly established. It's now a virtuous cycle that seems to feed itself. Each year I write posts about these numbers and each year I say something rah-rah about how the rest of the country can look forward to Oregon-level craft penetration. I'll say it again--clearly, something like this is possible--but with slightly less confidence than in past years.