A year in review post is a good place to take stock. I feel like there is a general impression that craft beer is in a bit of a slump. I don’t think I believe that.
While this post considers the total number of breweries and the number of openings and closings, that’s only part of the story. I don’t delve into barrels of production or market share or revenue or profit or economic impact. A very significant factor that I don’t get into here is that many local breweries have dramatically increased production capacity. Individual breweries will have to tell us how they are doing, but keep in mind that anecdotes are not evidence and rumors are not facts.
There are three more breweries in San Diego at the end of 2019 than compared to a year ago at the same time: 160, up from 157. That’s a very small net change but, as with last year, the small net change masks a whole lot of activity.
The most remarkable thing to note is the addition of fourteen net new tasting rooms, from 42 to 56. That is a massive 33.3% increase in the number of tasting rooms year over year. Compared to the 30 that were open at the end of 2017, tasting rooms have increased 87% (26 tasting rooms) in two years. That definitely doesn’t look like a slump to me.
The net increase of 3 breweries and 14 tasting rooms during 2019 brings the total number of locations to 216, up from 199 at the end of 2018. While that is only a 1.9% increase in the number of breweries, it is an 8.5% increase overall.
The net changes don’t tell the whole story: 27 brand new locations opened in 2019 (11 breweries, 16 tasting rooms). Ten breweries and 3 tasting rooms closed down. One tasting room converted (back) into a brewery. One brewery (Eppig) opened one brewery while closing another.
In 2018, nineteen breweries and eleven tasting rooms opened. That’s the same total number as in 2019.
In terms of quality, San Diego continues to dominate. At the inaugural California Craft Brewers Cup, San Diego County breweries won 22% of the medals, including Best in Show for Rip Current’s Breakline Bock. At the 2019 Great American Beer Festival, San Diego breweries won 18 medals, making San Diego County by far the winningest county in the country at the GABF. San Diego won more medals than every state except Colorado. That’s 6% of the GABF medals, by the way, and San Diego has only 2% of all the breweries in the country.
Looking forward, there is going to be a spurt of new openings in early 2020. As I said here, there will be seven openings in the early part of 2020 (three brewers and three tasting rooms, plus Beverage House, which seems to be at least in part a tasting room for Cismontane Brewing from Orange County).
All told, I am currently aware of 24 potential new breweries and 18 potential new tasting rooms. I judge that there is a high probability of at least 15 of those opening in 2019, and probably more, plus there are always new projects that pop up without warning.
Here’s to being in the best craft beer city in the world! Happy New Year.