Washington’s Craft Brewing Industry Contributes $1.4 Billion to State Economy

Washington’s craft brewing industry contributed $1.4 billion to the state’s economy in 2017, according to an economic impact report released Tuesday by the Washington Beer Commission.

The study, conducted by Seattle-based research firm Community Attributes Inc, found that the state’s 382 breweries produced 582,400 barrels, generated $581.4 million in revenue and employed 6,300 workers in 2017.

However, Washington’s beer volumes — while more than double 2005’s 283,400 barrels — were down from a peak of 632,300 barrels in 2016. The decline was due to Craft Brew Alliance closing the Redhook production facility in Woodinville and transferring production out of state as part of a rationalization of the brewery group’s footprint.

The study noted the ongoing struggles of the Redhook brand, which it said declined at an annual rate of 21 percent between 2007 and 2017, while the state’s other breweries have grown at an annual rate of 16 percent during the same period.

More than half of Washington’s craft beer volumes were concentrated among the state’s eight largest breweries in 2017, according to the study. In fact, one-third of the production came from the state’s four largest craft breweries.

The state’s largest craft brewery, Anheuser-Busch-owned Elysian Brewing, manufactured 66,300 barrels in 2017. following closely behind was a Brewers Association-defined independent craft brewery, Georgetown Brewing, with 65,000 barrels. Other top producers included Fremont Brewing (44,200 barrels), Mac & Jack’s Brewery (38,200), Iron Horse Brewery (25,400), and Bale Breaker (24,000). In its last year of in-state production, Redhook brewed 20,400 barrels of beer.

Of Washington’s 382 licensed breweries in 2017, just 30 breweries produced at least 2,000 barrels. About one-fifth made between 500 and 2,000 barrels. And two-thirds of state’s craft breweries produced fewer than 500 barrels.

So where is all of the production occurring? More than half of 2017’s production (55 percent) occurred in King County. Seattle is home to the state’s largest number of brewery locations (66), the study found, and the second most breweries in Washington were located in Vancouver (19). There were also 16 breweries operating in Tacoma in 2017, while Spokane and Bellingham boasted 14 and 13 breweries, respectively. According to the study, at least one brewery exists in 130 Washington cities.

Although Washington’s craft breweries accounted for 11 percent of the beer sold by the state’s wholesalers in 2017 — up from about 4 percent in 2005 — most of the state’s beer sales come from out-of-state producers such as Anheuser-Busch and Pabst Brewing, as well as regional craft breweries based out of state.

The study also highlighted the popularity of brewery taprooms and brewpubs. According to the report, about 75 percent of Washington breweries rely on self-distribution, brewpubs and taprooms as their only sales channels.

The state’s brewery count is expected to continue to grow. Since 2010, an average of 33 new breweries have opened in Washington each year. According to the report, Washington had 391 active brewery licenses as of August 2018, up from 94 in 2005.

Also of note, 75 percent of the total hop crop production in the U.S. occurred in Washington in 2017.

Washington is the latest state to release an economic impact report. Earlier this month, the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) reported that the state’s more than 900 craft breweries contributed more than $8.2 billion in economic impact to the economy in 2017.

Meanwhile, the New York State Brewers Association (NYSBA), found that 434 craft breweries generated $5.4 billion in total economic impact in 2018.

And, in Maine, a biennial economic impact study conducted by the University of Maine found that the state’s craft beer industry contributed more than $260 million to the state’s economy.

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