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The Brewers Association reported yesterday that:

The American brewing industry reached another milestone at the end of June, with more than 3,000 breweries operating for all or part of the month (3,040 to be precise). Although precise numbers from the 19th century are difficult to confirm, this is likely the first time the United States has crossed the 3,000 brewery barrier since the 1870s. The Internal Revenue Department counted 2,830 “ale and lager breweries in operation” in 1880, down from a high point of 4,131 in 1873.

What does 3,000 breweries mean? For one, it represents a return to the localization of beer production, with almost 99% of the 3,040 breweries being small and independent. The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a local brewery, and with almost 2,000 planning breweries in the BA database, that percentage is only going to climb in the coming years.

Secondly, it means that competition continues to increase, and that brewers will need to further differentiate and focus on quality if they are going to succeed in a crowded marketplace. While a national brewery number is fairly irrelevant without understanding local marketplaces, 3,040 breweries could not happen without increased competition in many localities.

MP: In addition to the animated graphic above, there’s an interactive chart of the annual brewery count from 1873 to 2014 here. Note that in every year from 1977 to 1984 there were fewer than 100 breweries in the US, and the low point was 1978, when there were only 89 breweries. By 2007, there were about 1,500 breweries, and that number had doubled to more than 3,000 in less than 7 years! There’s never been a better time to be a serious beer drinker than today, given the awesome selection of craft beers from every part of the country. Welcome to the Golden Age of Beer - there’s no stagnation for this part of the economy!