Even the casual craft beer drinker knows that cities like San Diego and Seattle boast some of the richest brewery-per-capita rates in the country. However the overall surge of craft beer in America has also created an expansive reach of breweries in places not commonly mentioned alongside other craft hotspots. An article written earlier this month by Daniel Fromson of The New Yorker, complemented by an interactive map, outlines the industry’s growing footprint and helps prove its place in the heartlands.
Based on data from the Brewers Association, the map provides total breweries, annual production figures, production growth from 2011 to 2012 and breweries per 500,000 people by state. It also features the 50 largest breweries, the fastest-growing breweries and new breweries that opened in 2012.
Fromson notes that from 2011 to 2012, production grew at a strong rate in the South, with some of the fastest risers residing in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky. Other states to include fast risers include Minnesota, Nevada and Oklahoma.
“Many of the fastest-growing craft breweries are those that are pushing into less saturated areas—and they are growing really quickly,” Fromson wrote.
Much of this growth has been carried by the top commercial beers in America, as voted by Zymurgy Magazine, the journal of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA). For the fifth consecutive year, the AHA gave the top spot to Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, which was followed by Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Bell’s Hopslam Ale and Ballast Point Sculpin IPA.
The magazine also recognized the breweries with the best portfolio of beers, honoring The Boston Beer Company with the top spot. It was followed by Dogfish Head, Avery Brewing Co., Cigar City Brewing and Sierra Nevada.
While it wasn’t featured in the AHA’s list, Great Lakes Brewing Company is pushing the limits of innovation; an increasingly difficult achievement in this crowded craft landscape. According to a story by Steven Yaccino of The New York Times, the Cleveland-based brewery has been working with archaeologists to replicate a 5,000-year-old Sumerian beer.
“There is an unresolved argument in academic circles about whether the invention of beer was the primary reason that people in Mesopotamia, considered the birthplace of Western civilization about 10,000 years ago, first became agriculturalists,” Yaccino wrote.
Yet despite the likely interest from the truest of beer nerds, the article notes that Great Lakes doesn’t plan on selling the brew to the public. It’s simply an educational endeavor.