WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- Some states will let insults about their air quality, road conditions, beaches, cities or even accents pass without blinking an eye. Insult their beer, however, and it's go time.Even as the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau reports that overall U.S. beer sales decreased 1% by volume last year, the number of breweries in the U.S. jumped to 1,759, according to the Brewers Association. That's the highest count since the end of the 19th century. That number rose to 1,790 by July and doesn't include the 725 breweries in the planning stages. According to Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, that puts the majority of Americans within 10 miles of a brewery. Excluding only Tennessee, Rhode Island, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Alaska, Illinois, Louisiana and Washington, D.C., the amount of beer being brewed in those nearby breweries only increased within the past decade, according to figures from Washington-based industry group The Beer Institute's 2010 almanac. Just as some states are being left out of the beer bash, some companies are getting to the keg just as it kicks. Anheuser-Busch InBev ( BUD) and MolsonCoors ( TAP) each saw business drop 3% last year and continue a downward trend as such importers as Diageo-Guinness USA ( DEO) (whose sales increased 3.9% last year) and craft brewers including Samuel Adams producer Boston Beer ( SAM) (which increased sales nearly 12%) siphoned off their market share. Sales of imported beers were up 5% on the whole last year, while craft beer led the charge with 11% growth by volume and 12% growth in revenue. Those gains only continued for hyperlocal craft beer, with a 14% jump in sales volume and 15% in their take through June, according to the Brewers Association. That said, beer has become an increasingly local point of pride that states will defend to the bitter, hop-flavored end. But what states can most legitimately call themselves "beer states?" We took a close look at stats provided by the Brewers Association and Beer Institute and, based on four key criteria -- production, consumption, breweries and breweries per capita -- came up with the 10 top beer states in America. There were some tough omissions, and we're sure the inbox will be filled with a lot of hate from strong producers such as Pennsylvania (8.9 million barrels last year alone) and strong supporters such as North Dakota (whose three breweries rank dead last in the U.S., but whose nearly 30 gallons a year in per capita consumption rank third), but these 10 laid out strong arguments for their spot on the tap wall:
Number of breweries: 27
Capita per brewery: 36,645
Production in 2010: 971,947 barrels
Consumed per capita in 2010: 30.5 gallons
The output of Montana breweries including Big Sky, Great Northern and Bitter Root isn't all that impressive, especially considering that Mike's Hard Lemonade alone rolled out roughly 200,000 more barrels last year and D.G. Yuengling & Son more than doubled the entire state's production on its own. Yet Montana's beer production has increased 1.8% in the past decade, which ties Montana for the most brewing growth of any state in the U.S. How Montana pours out that production and that of other states is much more awe inspiring. At 30.5 gallons of beer per year, the average Montana resident's beer consumption is second-highest in the nation, almost a full gallon ahead of third-place North Dakota and a whopping three gallons ahead of South Dakota. Those little more than two dozen breweries may not seem like much in more established craft brew states, but it's the third-best ratio of brewers to citizens in the U.S. There are some hard winters in Big Sky Country, but there's plenty of beer to warm those cold nights.
Number of breweries: 11
Capita per brewery: 81,630
Production in 2010: 735,442 barrels
Consumed per capita in 2010: 25.4 gallons
Delaware only wishes it could brew as much beer as Montana, but it has one item in its backyard Montana can't match: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. The Milton-based brewer produces roughly 17% of Delaware's beer and has a brewpub in Rehoboth Beach that still faithfully pours out its brews to the summer vacation crowd. Founder Sam Calagione's commitment to experimentation and forensic archeology has produced beers such as Midas Touch, based on residue found in the drinking vessels of King Midas' tomb in Turkey, and helped bring Dogfish Head to national attention through his short-lived Discovery Channel series Brew Masters. Even Dogfish Head needs some help from other locals, including Old Dominion Brewing, Twin Lakes Brewing and Evolution Craft Brewing in quenching the average Delaware drinker's 25.4-gallons-a-year thirst for beer, which is the eighth-highest consumption rate in the nation. Fortunately for the tiny First State, Delaware's 11 breweries are enough to give it the 10th-best ratio of brewers to population in the U.S.
Number of breweries: 16
Capita per brewery: 82,279
Production in 2010: 1.4 million barrels
Consumed per capita in 2010:32.7 gallons
The "Live Free" part of New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" motto seems to have the state's beer drinkers covered. That 32.7 gallons of beer consumed by the average New Hampshire resident last year is the highest level in the land, and the state gives its beer lovers a whole lot of freedom to choose when it comes to its tap selections. Want a small brewpub? Portsmouth Brewery still keeps that "kettles in the back" aesthetic that drove the original craft boom in the '90s. Want a local craft brew, but something with a broader palate? Even the Portsmouth Brewery keeps fellow Portsmouth brewer and regional favorite Smuttynose's Old Brown Dog and Old Shoals Pale Ale on tap. If all that's just a little too local and specialized, the Craft Brewers Alliance's ( HOOK) Redhook cranks out ESB, Wit and Copperhook at its large Portsmouth-based brewing facility and brewpub while hosting special events on the brewery's sprawling grounds throughout the year. New Hampshire has the 11th-best capita-per-brewer ratio in the U.S., but even that's not enough to keep up with both in-state demand and that of thirsty neighbors who drive over the state line to New Hampshire State Liquor Stores just to avoid the sales tax. That's why Anheuser-Busch InBev helps bulk up the total by churning out its macrobrews at the brewery in Merrimack that serves as the hub of its New England operations. If you're going to take it, you may as well dish it out.
Number of breweries: 72
Capita per brewery: 78,986
Production in 2010: 4.8 million barrels
Consumed per capita in 2010: 26.3 gallons
The state roots on a first-place team named the Brewers, was the birthplace of iconic brands such as Pabst and is still home to not only the Miller cooling caves, museum and brewing facility, but MillerCoors' division offices. Combine that with a growing and increasingly vocal craft beer community and you have a state that's been a beer state since before the great-grandparents of University of Wisconsin freshmen were born. Wisconsin residents drink the fifth-most beer per person in the U.S. and have the ninth-best ratio of residents per brewer in the country. Their commitment to Old World-style brewing is so great that Sprecher Brewing still adheres to the original German formulas, New Glarus brews in a facility that looks like an Alpine lodge nestled in the predominantly Swiss town of the same name and Miller still keeps Leinenkugel's "Leinie Lodge" facility intact after buying the brewer 23 years ago. Why isn't Wisconsin ranked higher, then? Partly because of production that doesn't even crack the Top 10, but partly because of legislation passed this summer that protects Miller from A-B InBev encroachment that combines the brewer's permit and wholesale and retail licenses given out by municipalities into a single permit under state control and prohibits brewers from buying wholesale distributors. That's great for Miller, but just made life a whole lot more difficult for the more than 70 brewers in the state that aren't Miller who now have a much more difficult path to getting licenses and getting their product on shelves. Wisconsin's total beer output grew only 0.2% during the past decade. Making life harder for most of your brewers for the sake of one doesn't seem like the best way to create growth.
Number of breweries: 59
Capita per brewery: 328,442
Production in 2010:10.3 million barrels
Consumed per capita in 2010: 16.5 gallons
This is an easy choice to knock. Only Connecticut (16.2 gallons) and Utah (12.4) drink less beer per capita than New York does. Those two states still have a higher capita per brewery ratio than New York, which ranks ahead of only 10 other states and trails Rhode Island and South Dakota despite each of those states having only four breweries apiece. So what's New York doing here? It comes down to two factors: outcome and potential. New York produces the fourth most beer in America, but the two states directly in front of it -- Florida with 12.7 million barrels and Texas with 19.4 million -- have even worse brewery-to-human ratios. Texas, despite having Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors facilities and a cool 431,000 barrels a year from Shiner Bock producer Spoetzl, still has less than one brewery for every 500,000 Texans. New York, meanwhile, gets a big boost from the A-B plant in Baldwinsville and from Labatt's U.S. headquarters in Buffalo but also has a lot of help from Rochester-based North American Breweries. The holding company is based out of Genesee Brewing headquarters and still produces cans of Genny Cream Ale, but also includes Dundee Brewing, Vermont-based Magic Hat, Seattle-based Pyramid and Portland, Ore.-based MacTarnahan's in its portfolio. Collectively, the NAB brands grew 6.8%, to nearly 2.3 million barrels worth of production in 2010. That's just the frothy head on New York's big brew, as F.X. Matt Brewery, which produces the Saranac line, contributes another 182,000 barrels and Brooklyn Brewery has nearly doubled its output from 58,000 barrels in 2006 to 108,000 last year. With smaller players like Brooklyn's Six Point and Long Island's Blue Point quickly gaining consumers and craft credibility, New York seems the most likely among the big-brewing states to slide its production up above the 0.2% growth of the past decade.
Number of breweries: 123
Capita per brewery: 54,671
Production in 2010: 4.15 million barrels
Consumed per capita in 2010: 19.1 gallons
Bud and Coors aren't brewed here and much of Washington doesn't seem to mind. Craft beer alone holds 25.5% of the beer market in the Seattle area, according to Beer Marketer's Insights, which is more than MillerCoors' 25.3% share and A-B's 23.8%. That's what can happen when your state has the second-most breweries in the country and the eighth-best capita per brewery in the nation. It also helps to have some old friends such as Pyramid Breweries and Redhook Ale Brewery still calling your state home, even if their corporate masters are based elsewhere. Perhaps the most surprising contribution comes from a brewer that few beer enthusiasts would deign to call "craft": Mike's Hard Lemonade. The Seattle-based brewer has turned its colorful, fruity malt beverages into a 1.2-million-barrel-producing beast last year after pushing out only 805,000 just four years earlier. In the geographic cradle of craft beer where no macro dares to tread, Mike's is the closest Washington comes to a big brewer.
Number of breweries: 118
Capita per brewery: 42,620
Production in 2010: 3.6 million barrels
Consumed per capita in 2010: 22 gallons
While we're sure the Colorado brewing community is very proud of New Belgium Brewing and the 661,000 barrels it turned out last year, Oskar Blues and its pioneering of craft beer in cars and of other big contributors such as Avery and Great Divide, Colorado's brewing success isn't based in craft alone. Colorado is still Coors country, and as long as Pike's Peak stays on the cans, a Miller Coors division office stays in Golden and the Colorado Rockies' stadium is still called Coors Field, it's going to stay that way. Also, as much as Fort Collins seems to love New Belgium's bike-in theater and scavenger hunts and Odell Brewing's potent concoctions, it's still home to an Anheuser-Busch plant and distributes 30 packs of macro far and wide. Yet this is what makes a beer state: a little something for everyone. With the fourth most breweries in America and the fourth best capita per brewery in the country, Colorado has plenty of IPA and witbier for the craft collective and enough Bud and Coors Light for the Tim Tebow jersey-wearing Broncos faithful.
Number of breweries: 121
Capita per brewery: 31,622
Production in 2010: 2.8 million barrels
Consumed per capita in 2010: 22.7 gallons
Oregon's beer empire is built on craft, and anyone who's found themselves amid too many brewpubs in Portland with too little time to see all of them knows it can take quite a while to explore that empire. Deschutes Brewery is a good place to start and produces the second most beer of any Oregon brewer -- 203,000 barrels last year alone. They trail only the Craft Brewers Alliance, which brewed 370,000 barrels in Oregon last year and owns Portland's Widmer Brothers Brewery and Gasthaus Pub. Full Sail Brewing Company in Hood River, meanwhile, has a stunning view from its brewpub and produced 101,000 barrels last year while staring up at Mount Hood or gazing down at the kitesurfers along the Columbia River. The key to Oregon's success doesn't lie with Rogue Ales, BridgePort Brewing, Widmer Brothers Brewing, MacTarnahan's Taproom or even at Craft Brewers Alliance headquarters. It's in the state's variety of breweries that give it the third-most facilities in the nation and second best capita per brewery. The state's smart drinking public is matched only by its solid brewing community. "The states that have high number of breweries or a low number of people per brewery (capita per brewery) I consider as areas where there is a high level of beer knowledge, interest in small, local companies and an entrepreneurial streak," the Brewers Association's Gatza says. "For every brewery that starts up across the country, there is a person willing to strike out on her or his own and go through all of the steps needed to get the brewery going."
Number of breweries: 21
Capita per brewery: 29,797
Production in 2010: 528,469 barrels
Consumed per capita in 2010: 26.2 gallons
Vermont's a tiny state with a population of 626,000 that's only slightly larger than the city of Boston. Its brewing culture, however, is enormous. This isn't about Vermont's output. The Craft Brewers Alliance alone produced more beer than Vermont did last year. It's about the state's love of beer and its access to it. Vermonters drink the sixth-largest amount of beer per capita in the United States and have plenty of great options to choose from. Meanwhile, each of Vermont's 21 breweries serve a crowd smaller than the capacity of Fenway Park and give the Green Mountain state the best capita per brewery in America. Despite NAB's purchase of Magic Hat last year, Burlington still embraces Magic Hat as one of its own and puts out nearly 160,000 barrels of it. Windsor's Harpoon, meanwhile, produced 150,000 barrels last year between its cozy brewery in the mountains and its slightly more industrial home along Boston Harbor. Bridgewater's Long Trail Brewing is still all Vermont and produced 117,000 barrels in the state last year. Otter Creek, Rock Art and other Vermont breweries bolster the numbers a bit, but when you're pouring for such a small crowd, even out-of-state skiers and leaf peepers don't drain too much out of the keg. "One common trait in the Top 5 states that have the fewest capita per brewery is that self-distribution is allowed under the laws of the state," Gatza says. "It is easier to open a microbrewery when you can go to retailers on your own to build sales of your beers up to a level that carrying your brands become attractive to a beer distributor."
Number of breweries: 245
Capita per brewery: 152,057
Production in 2010: 22.2 million barrels
Consumed per capita in 2010: 18.4 gallons
For beer lovers, it doesn't get any bigger than California. Though it ranks only 21st in capita per brewery, its 245 breweries and 22.2 million barrels of production are No. 1 in the U.S. Much like Colorado, though, California has enough love for brewers big and small. MillerCoors has a home in Irwindale, Anheuser-Busch Inbev has a brewery in Fairfield and North American Brewing's Pyramid Brewers maintain a presence here as well. California's vaunted craft brewing community is no slouch either, with Sierra Nevada taking the lead by producing 786,000 barrels in its Chico headquarters alone last year. Brewers that have been household names to craft fans for years are finding bigger followings as well, with Escondido's Stone Brewing increasing production from 49,000 barrels in 2006 to 115,000 last year and Lagunitas-based Lagunitas Brewing jumping from 39,000 to 106,000 during the same span. But shouldn't a state with this much beer love its beer a little more? The amount of beer Californians consumed per capita last year was the seventh-lowest in the country, but California seems to have no problem pouring a few rounds while everyone else picks up the tab. -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.
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