Craft Beer Economics 2: More Cities Mixing Business with Pleasure

Sure, Europe’s got Munich, Prague, and Brussels, but we have, well, too many quality craft beer cities to count. Every time we turn around another one has burst onto the scene and on its way to establishing itself as yet another craft beer destination in the U.S. As we saw in our first Craft Beer Cities post, this industry is driving economic growth, spurring tourism and creating thousands of jobs across the nation. A recent study  found that whereas the U.S beer industry has steadily declined over the past 5 years, the craft beer industry has continued to grow at an annual rate of 10%. So naturally, it would be silly for cities not to jump on the craft beer train. Here’s our latest look at 3 cities who are not only enjoying quality beer but the economic boom that evidently comes along with a thriving craft beer scene.


It’s no surprise that the home of the nation’s Craft Beer Institute is quickly becoming a mecca for craft beer. What stands out most about Chicago is the innovation its breweries are employing.

Begyle Brewing became Chicago’s first community supported brewery, supplying beer to their members through monthly subscriptions. Begyle fundraised in the community which allowed them to purchase a counter-pressure growler filler that helps to reduce beer loss and increase the life expectancy of the growlers they fill, ensuring that their customers the highest quality beer possible. By definition, Begyle’s model speaks for the community- that it’s members are willing to stand behind small, local breweries to help get their production up and running and grow this industry in their city. In return, quality community supported breweries like Begyle are dedicated to delivering superior craft beer. Begyle’s other novel practices include using their spent grain on doggy treats and sharing their space with local Chicago artists. Cool, right? Sounds like Chicago has a solid symbiotic craft beer community growing in it’s backyard that other cities can take note from.

Also noteworthy about Chicago is how it’s nurturing a fairly untapped market for craft beer- women. Ginger Johnson, Founder of Women Enjoying Beer, explains “The opportunity for all beer companies, no matter how large or small they are, to market authentically, accurately and appropriately to women… is explosive.” Chicago appears to have taken note. Lagunitas Brewing Co. just named Mary Nowak head brewer at their new Chicago location which upon opening will make it the second-largest craft brewery in the country. This year Chicago’s Craft Beer Week featured a special celebration of the women in the craft beer industry. It is also home base for a network of female craft beer lovers called “Barley’s Angels”. Surely, converting the other 50% of their city’s population into craft beer fans can’t be hurting the industry one bit.

Innovation is a cornerstone of any successful business and Chicago breweries are definitely getting high marks in this department, helping to usher in a new era of Chicago brewing which embraces ingenuity and diversity.


With 90 craft breweries Portland, Oregon has more than any other city in the world according to the Oregon Brewers Guild. But it’s not just about quantity- Portland is widely regarded as a world-class craft beer destination. Its annual summer beer festival- Oregon Brewers Festival shattered attendance records in 2011 with 80,000 visitors and organizers estimate it generated about $2 million in economic activity for the region. The festival donated over $10,000 to Pints for Prostates, a worthy organization that uses beer to raise awareness amongst men about early detection and prostate cancer.

This city is so much of a craft beer destination, Portland writer Lucy Burningham decided to publish a book about it. “Hop in the Saddle” is a complete guide to experiencing Portland’s craft beer scene by bike. The book has been a huge hit with critics, tourists and Portland natives alike, completing what they have described perfectly as Portland’s “book, bike, and beer empire.” It seems that the craft brewing industry was destined to become a part of Portland’s legacy and it most certainly has.

San Diego

This past weekend over 140,000 sci-fi, comic book, and popular arts fanatics descended upon this city for its annual Comic-Con International Convention which is commonly hailed as one of San Diego’s biggest economic forces. What you may not know is that according to a study by National University System Institute for Policy Research, the San Diego craft brewing industry’s annual economic contribution is more than double what Comic-Con brings in. Yep, that comes out to a $300 million dollar direct economic impact on San Diego County. Unlike sports seasons, warm beaches in the summer months and annual conventions like Comic-Con, the San Diego craft beer scene has the potential to attract tourists all year round.

San Diego brewers not only work hard to deliver world-class brew to what the New York Times dubbed a “beer-crazed” city, they are truly dedicated to pushing this industry to its fullest potential for the benefit of their city. At at recent Voice of San Diego event, Stone Brewing Co’s co-founder and CEO Greg Koch argued for San Diego to take a “beer-first approach” calling for the major venues like the airport, San Diego Zoo, Sea World, PETCO Park, and Qualcomm Stadium to stand behind local beer and help solidify its well deserved place as part of San Diego’s tourism identity; Not that being voted by Beer Advocate readers as the #1 “All Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” doesn’t speak enough for San Diego’s own Stone Brewing Co. The San Diego craft beer community is united in growing their beloved industry for the greater good of San Diego and its loyal following of craft-beer fans.

What’s brewing in your city’s craft beer scene?


Kristen Rosas

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