NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Craft beer can grow in popularity and production as much as it likes, but it won't make a difference if it doesn't grow out of its comfort zone.
According to the Brewers Association craft beer industry group, craft brewers sold 12.2 million barrels of beer in the first half of 2015, up from 10.6 million barrels during the first half of 2014. At the end of that same period, there were 3,739 breweries operating in the U.S. That's an increase of 699 breweries since the same time last year and doesn't count the 1,755 breweries currently in the planning stages. That translates to an estimated 115,469 full-time and part-time jobs in the craft beer industry.
That's a not insubstantial portion of 49,576 brewery jobs, 131,307 distribution jobs and 383,190 beer supplier positions -- hop growers, maltsters, brewing equipment fabricators and the like -- that the Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesalers Association lobbying groups say the beer industry will fill this year. Overall, those groups say the beer industry contributes about $253 billion in economic output -- roughly 1.5% of the nation's GDP -- and accounts for $48.5 billion in tax revenue.
However, that industry doesn't affect each part of the U.S. equally. Portland, Ore., adding yet another brewery to the more than 60 within its city limits does little to help Mississippi's beer industry and its seven breweries total. Nobody's raising a glass in North Dakota's six breweries to toast the opening of yet another big craft brewer's East Coast facilities in Asheville, N.C. According to Nielsen, while 35% of drinking age adults say they're interested in drinking a beer labeled “craft,” 45% want a beer that's made locally. That percentage of locavore beer drinkers jumps to 53% among drinkers ages 21 to 34, which suggests that beer is going to be an increasingly local concern for the foreseeable future.
That's inspiring a whole lot of brewers to forego craft beer hotspots in favor of less-saturated locales. With some help from local drinkers and increasingly friendly beer laws, the following 10 cities have seen their craft beer cultures explode within the last year. Craft brewers could hoard their newfound riches, but they're quickly discovering that their success, like their beer, is best shared with friends: