16 craft breweries that are shaping the American beer landscape - and boosting their local economies along the way
- In the book Our Towns: A 100,000-mile journey into the heart of America, the authors write that craft breweries are a useful indicator of the local economic and social vitality of cities and towns across the country.
- American craft brewers added $79.1 billion to the economy in 2018 and provided more than 550,000 total jobs, according to an industry trade group.
- "It has become a nation-wide version of local branding," author Jim Fallows tells Business Insider. "Every place had a shopping mall 50 years ago - now every place has a brewery, and that is more interesting to me."
- Business Insider highlights 16 small breweries (and one bonus) that are shaping the American craft beer landscape and having a local impact.
- Click here for more BI Prime content.
Craft breweries are arguably the best way to gauge whether a town is in excellent health. Just ask James and Deborah Fallows of The Atlantic, who spotted the trend in their journey to cities all over the country for their book Our Towns. The Fallowses traversed the nation in a sedan-sized airplane on a journey to visit smaller cities and towns and take the pulse of places often considered "flyover country." For the Fallows, it's fly-to.
The husband and wife team visited more than two dozen towns, many of which were still recovering from economic shifts, including the Great Recession. The writers identified several indicators of an area's "civic energy," a term they use to encompass local concerns like economic growth, political engagement, and social well-being.
Places like Burlington, VT, and Greenville, SC, topped their list of towns with high civic energy, what with their strong community engagement and thriving local economy - while towns like San Bernardino, CA, and Allentown, PA, have farther to go to return to their former glory. Wherever they went, the most promising places had one thing in common: craft breweries.
Breweries are "one of the most reliable signs of civic energy," James Fallows writes. "A town that has them also has a certain kind of entrepreneur and a critical mass of mainly young (except for me) customers. It sounds like a joke, but it explains a lot."
"It has become a nation-wide version of local branding," he said in an interview with Business Insider. He explained further how in the days before refrigeration and modern logistics, most towns in the US had their own distinct brewhouses that reflected the local character.
That all ended with Prohibition in 1920, and remained dormant for years after the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st. Some regulations continued to outlaw craft production until 1979, when President Jimmy Carter legalized home-brewing.
Now, production is booming. There are more than 7,400 craft breweries in the US, according to the Brewers Association trade group, and craft brewers added $79.1 billion to the US economy, provided more than 550,000 total jobs, and produced more than 25 million barrels of beer in 2018.
"Every place had a shopping mall 50 years ago," Fallows said. "Now every place has a brewery, and that is more interesting to me."
Breweries have served as catalysts for local development around the country, as brewers rehab underutilized properties for production. From Williamsburg, Brooklyn to Duluth, MN, Fallows has witnessed spectacular growth in the past 20 years, driven in part by local beer-makers.
Fallows recommended that beer-lovers try the Untappd mobile app to locate near-by craft brewers, but to whet your palette, here are 16 brewers from Maine to California that are having a local impact and are shaping the American beer landscape.
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