Although Maine is commonly associated with lobster and blueberries, there’s a new industry in the state that is quickly becoming a big contributor to the economy, and it is poised to grow by 200 percent in the next four years — craft beer. The Maine Brewers’ Guild released an economic impact study undertaken by economists at the University of Maine, and the numbers are impressive. According to the study, Maine’s breweries sold $92.6 million worth of beer in 2013, while employing nearly 1,500 workers.
An additional $35.5 million worth of revenue was generated from the sales of Maine-made craft beer in brewpubs, restaurants and retail shops. Directly and indirectly, the sales of Maine craft beer resulted in an estimated annual statewide economic impact of $189 million. For comparison, Maine’s lobster catch in 2012 was worth about $340 million and Maine’s wild blueberry harvest was worth about $69 million. However, neither the lobster industry nor the blueberry industry is poised for growth like the Maine craft beer industry.
According to the study, Maine’s brewers plan to increase production by 36 percent between 2013 and 2014 and by 200 percent by 2018, and that only accounts for the 35 breweries that were in operation in 2013. As of today, there are 53 breweries in the state, with at least five more planned to open this year.
“The future is bright for Maine craft beer,” said Dan Kleban, owner of Maine Beer Co. and president of the Maine Brewers’ Guild. “We are creating sustainable manufacturing jobs, driving tourism and supporting allied industries like Maine farms.”
In fact, more than half of Maine’s brewers indicated that they are making active efforts to source local ingredients for their beers. This demand for local hops, grains and value-added products like malt is far outstripping the supply, meaning new opportunities for Maine’s farmers.
As of 2013, Maine is home to the fifth highest number of breweries per capita in the United States, with 4.7 breweries per 100,000 adults 21 and over, according to the national trade group that represents craft beer, the Brewers Association. Nationally, more and more consumers are purchasing craft beer; in 2013, craft beer saw 18 percent volume growth while overall beer production (which includes big breweries such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors) was down 2 percent. Although craft beer is consistently making gains in the marketplace, craft beer still only represents 7.8 percent of total beer consumed in the country, up from 6.5 percent in 2012.
“I’m often asked if I am worried that we are getting close to market saturation here in Maine,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild. “But I don’t think we’re anywhere close. There’s still a huge amount of market share that craft beer stands to gain nationally and here in our state. There’s also a strong sense of community in our industry — not all breweries brew the same styles of beer and collaboration is prized, so it’s not a winner-takes-all type of market.”
It’s clear that the craft beer industry is quickly becoming a big contributor to Maine’s economy and will continue to do so in the coming years. Luckily enough, there are plenty of Maine-brewed beers that pair well with lobster and blueberries.