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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Oregon: the Most-Breweried State?

Note: Post has been updated.

Oregon Public Broadcasting has been reporting this interesting tidbit the last couple days:

Oregon may have surpassed Vermont last year as the state with the most breweries per capita.  That's one conclusion of a new report from Oregon's employment department.
I can't find the report, and after enticing us with that lede, OPB offers no support for the finding at all.  With brewery openings happening as fast as they are, it would be hard to nail down this number--and that's if you could agree on what qualifies as a "brewery."  (The Lucky Lab has two brewing locations and four pubs--do you count it as one, two, or four?)  If some official body did award Oregon the laurel, bully for us.  It would be another talking point for Beervana.

A word of caution, though.  The only reason to cite per capita numbers is to use them as a metric for something.  Something we might call a "beeriness index," I presume.  If you have a lot of breweries per capita, it follows, you must have great beeriness.  This is partly a statistical illusion.  Which is a more beery state, Idaho or California?  Intuition tells you that the home of Firestone Walker, Sierra Nevada, Anchor, and Russian River probably bests the home of ... er, whatever.  Idaho, it turns out, has about double the density of breweries per capita.

Looking at the lists of these things, what you find is that measuring breweries per capita makes states with small populations look especially grand.  The seven most breweried states: Vermont, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Maine, Wyoming, and Alaska--the 49th, 27th, 44th, 22nd, 41st, 50th, and 47th largest states.  Or, put another way, for California to have the same density of breweries as Vermont, it would have to have 1,267 of them.

A beeriness index should include per capita numbers, but it those numbers don't begin to tell the whole story on their own.

 _____________________


Update.  In comments, Greg points to the actual findings of the study, which are beyond dubious:
"In 2010, Oregon was ranked second by the Brewers Association for states' brewery per capita with 31,660 people for each brew pub. At that time, they counted 110 breweries. Using the 184 brewery and brew pub units from this analysis (units with or without employment) and the Population Research Center's 2011 Oregon population estimate, in 2011 there were just 20,965 Oregonians per brewery. That puts Oregon well above Vermont, the 2010 number one ranked state. In 2010, Vermont had 27,800 people per brewery. The Brewers Association has not published a 2011 ranking."
It's bad enough that they compare Oregon's 2011 numbers with Vermont's from the year previous, but egregious over a period when the number of brewery openings exploded by 20-30%.  Not only that, but they have used a statistic ("brewery and brew pub units") that is inconsistent with the way everyone else counts breweries.  The Oregon Brewers Guild--the gold standard in these matters--says, "There are currently 120 brewing companies, operating 153 brewing facilities in 59 cities in Oregon."

I have no idea which state has the most breweries per capita.  Neither does the Oregon Department of Employment.

7 comments:

@ColoBeerMan said...

But even Oregon and Colorado are much bigger, relatively, than the other five. In fact, the populations of Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Vermont and Maine put together are only slightly higher than Oregon's population and about a million less than Colorado's.

Stan Hieronymus said...

1,267 sounds like a lot, but according to the Wine Institute California had 3,364 winers in 2010.

Pete Dunlop said...

The OPB story is woefully short on details. Very shoddy journalism. As you've said before, the number of breweries per capita means nothing. The more important numbers revolve around total production and per capita consumption...how much of a state's beer is consumed within.

greg said...

Here is the worksource report

http://www.qualityinfo.org/olmisj/ArticleReader?itemid=00008325

"In 2010, Oregon was ranked second by the Brewers Association for states' brewery per capita with 31,660 people for each brew pub. At that time, they counted 110 breweries. Using the 184 brewery and brew pub units from this analysis (units with or without employment) and the Population Research Center's 2011 Oregon population estimate, in 2011 there were just 20,965 Oregonians per brewery. That puts Oregon well above Vermont, the 2010 number one ranked state. In 2010, Vermont had 27,800 people per brewery. The Brewers Association has not published a 2011 ranking."

Jeff Alworth said...

CBM--true, but Oregon's population is one-tenth that of California's. And our advantage over Washington, which has a nearly identical beer culture, has more to do with the Evergreen State's larger population than anything else.

Greg, fantastic--thanks so much. As I suspected, this claim is not well-founded. They're comparing Oregon's 2012 total with Vermont's 2010 total. (And doing it in the way that most favors brewery counts.)

Stan, I don't think it's much edifying to compare wineries and breweries. They have very different markets and business models.

Jack R. said...

Craft beer is intensely local.
Let's talk about County Density.
__County Capita Per Brewery__
Boulder County is rich with craft breweries and brewpubs.
There are 12 craft breweries and 08 craft brewpubs in Boulder County as of August 2012.
By year’s end there should be 17 craft breweries and 10 brewpubs; assuming one plan 'fails to launch'.

Twenty seven [27] founts of freshly crafted local beer; beer that travels mere meters from the brew kettle to your glass.

The population of Boulder County is about 300,000; this equates to a brewery for every 11,111 people.

Don't know how that compares to a county in Wyoming with one brewpub; but, it seems impressive.

cite :frontrangebrews.com

Leftfielder said...

Having driven back and forth between Oregon and Minnesota over the last few years, and wanting to visit brewpubs along the way, it's not breweries per capita that is important. Rather, it's maximum distance between breweries, or something like that. In Montana, Missoula is a great place for beer. Elsewhere, not so much. In Idaho, Boise is great. Otherwise, not so much.

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