Planet Money
12:40 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

More Breweries. Less Beer.

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 4:55 pm

Earlier this year, we wrote about Kings County Beef Jerky, an artisanal jerky company in Brooklyn (of course). Sure, it's easy to mock artisanal jerky companies. The jokes basically write themselves.

But the company may represent the future of U.S. manufacturing. We wrote:

The Kings County approach is a model for how manufacturers in many sectors can do better. Ignore low-priced commodity products. Focus instead on customizing high-quality goods for a select audience willing to pay a premium.

The same idea turns out to hold true for beer. Beer production has been flat in the U.S. for decades — it's actually a tiny bit lower than it was 30 years ago (find a comprehensive data set here). And the number of big breweries has gone down.

But over the same time, the number of small, independent breweries in America has exploded.

These new breweries are the beer version of Kings County Jerky. They are craft brewers who ignore the low-priced, commodity end of the beer market. They focus on making fancy beer for a select audience willing to pay more.

And it is indeed a select audience. Craft breweries account for more than 95 percent of the breweries in America, but they make just 6 percent of the beer.

Bonus Graphic: Here's a map of the states with the most breweries per capita.

Hat tip: Business Insider

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