how many breweries are sustainable in san diego county

How Many Breweries Are Sustainable in San Diego County?

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This is a common
question we’ve heard for the past 2 years. As of 12/13/15, there were 115
licensed and operational breweries in San Diego County, and another 41 in the
planning stages. That’s up from 91 breweries in June
2014 and 63 in June 2013. From June 2013 to December 2015, that represents an
approximate 33% annual growth rate. Many people have been questioning whether
San Diego can sustain this expansive growth and whether our local craft beer
industry will lose its mojo. My answer is no, it won’t. At least not for a
while. So what number represents the plateau or level of sustainability? My guess
is 220. And there are 2 reasons.

First off,
let’s move away from the term “breaking point” for San Diego breweries. Breaking point insinuates there
could be a market crash or craft beer collapse. Unless there’s another
prohibition, craft beer is here to stay.

REASON 1 – Napa

There are
about 400 wineries with tasting rooms in Napa Valley, which is sustained by
tourism and its 140,000 population. With
80% over 21 years old, that breaks down to about 357 wineries per capita
(*per 100,000 21+ adults). In 2014, Napa had an estimated 3.3 million visitors. In
2014, San Diego had an estimated 33.8 million visitors. Napa has 3.5 times the
amount of wineries to breweries than San Diego, which is being sustained by a
resident population 4.3% the size of San Diego’s population (3.2 million) and 9.7% the size of San Diego’s tourism traffic.

According to
US News, the average American consumes 13 bottles (330 ounces) of wine per
year. In the same report, it’s estimated that the average American consumes 217
12-ounce beers per year (or 2,604 ounces). So not only does San Diego have
plenty of room for growth when compared to Napa metrics, but Americans already
drink almost 8 times more beer than wine.

REASON 2 – Beer

According to The Brewers Association, California ranks
1st among US states with 435 licensed and operational breweries (26%
of which are in San Diego County). California craft beer also ranks 1st
among states in economic impact at $6.8 billion per year. However, California is only
ranked 20th in breweries per capita. That means that per 100,000
people (21 and over), there are 19 states that have more breweries per ‘drinking
population’. Coming in with 1.6 breweries per capita, California ranks way behind
state leaders like Vermont (1st with 8.6 breweries per capita), Oregon
(2nd with 7.4 breweries per capita) and Colorado (3rd
with 6.1 breweries per capita).

Based on
these (albeit basic) statistics of sustainability and some rudimentary math, I
estimate San Diego County can easily sustain 220 breweries. If Vermont can
sustain 8.6 breweries per 100,000 21+ adults, then so can San Diego County. San
Diego County’s population last year was estimated at 3.2 million, 80% of which
is 21+ years of age. The conversion rate of 21+ drinkers to 8.6 breweries per
capita in San Diego, brings the estimated breweries to 220. Supplementing these
statistics with the Napa methodology, it’s easy to forecast that San Diego has
plenty of room for growth.

As long as
San Diego breweries continue to produce good
beer and open in unsaturated areas, I think the County can easily sustain 220+ breweries.