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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Numbers of the Day: 17 and 47

The post has been updated below.

The Oregon Brewers Guild put out a press release today with the latest stats and figures on the state's beer industry.  It charts the ever-upward trends that now come to seem rote: 1.3 million barrels of beer brewed, up 11%; nearly one gross breweries operating 174 facilities in 59 cities; fifty-one breweries in Portland.  But what did leap off the page were these figures:
More than 17 percent of the 2.79 million barrels of all beer — both bottled and draft — consumed in the state were made in Oregon. For draft beer, that percentage is even higher, with Oregon breweries producing an estimated 47 percent of all draft beer consumed in the state.
Oregon-produced beer is all "craft" (admitting that the word has little real use)--or better yet, none of the beer made in Oregon is mass market lager.  The Guild helpfully points out that nationally, craft beer has only a 6.5% share of the beer market.  To put the 17% figure in context, the market for ales in Britain is currently just 14%.  You can also see the place of craft beer in the drinking ecosystem of Oregon: when people go out for a pint, they're drinking "craft" beer at an astounding rate--well over 50% when you consider the national craft and imported beers Oregonians are drinking alongside the local beers.

I have really tried to ratchet back the tub-thumping when it comes to writing about Oregon, but these are the kinds of stats that illustrate how mature our market is becoming.

Update.   I had an exchange on Twitter that reminded me of an important point these numbers reveal.  When we see that 17% of the beer market is craft (actually, the non-mass market is more than 20% with imports and beer from other states), we may think of this as shorthand for a discrete group--17% of beer drinkers are craft-beer drinkers.  This is where the 47% figure is a useful antidote.  In Oregon, a ton of people drink non-mass market beer.  When that Bud drinker goes out to a decent restaurant, he's probably drinking a Mirror Pond.  That twenty-four-year-old at Freddy's with the sixer of Pabst probably drinks a fair amount of Ninkasi.  As weird as it may seem to some beer geeks, the reality is that a lot of people don't think of mass market lagers as "swill."  It's just beer, and sometimes they like it.  Sometimes they like IPA.

It's why the notion of a low ceiling for craft beer is misguided.  There's no reason Oregon won't one day be a majority-craft market, and part of the reason is because the people drinking both the mass-market lagers and craft beers will be the same people.

Update to the update.   Oh, and I see that the Beeronomist has further analysis.  He hones in on the pub market as a point of focus.


  1. Without tub thumping too much as well, I have to admit that reading this made me think about your recent post about Garrett Oliver's comments about NYC beer culture. I'm going to side step the whole process of trying to define "beer culture," but I think sales numbers like this show just how pervasive "craft" beer is in Oregon. There are certainly other great beer cities in the US with great breweries and beer bars, but I've never been to any of them where good beer is as pervasive as it is in Oregon. Every convenience store in Portland sells craft beer. Every hole in the wall Mexican or Thai joint in the metro area sells craft beer (we have craft beer at food cart pods). In fact, to paraphrase Vasili Gletsos, it's sort of moved beyond "craft" and just become "beer." I think in a lot of places craft beer is still seen as a novelty, but in Oregon, it's pretty much become just plain old beer. Whether or not that means we have a "beer culture" is debatable (I would argue that we do), but it's undeniable that we've moved past most other areas because craft beer has become so common and mainstream. At 47% of draft beer, it's not just beer geeks.

  2. May I cut and paste this entry to my blog?

    I will give you credit and say that I just copied it from you.