Last week I had the pleasure to attend and be a panelist at the inaugural Beer Marketing & Tourism Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. Not only was it educational, it was also great fun.
Some 250 folks from all over the U.S. and a few foreign countries were in attendance, representing destinations, breweries, beer media and tour operators. There were a variety of speakers and workshops covering a number of topics, a reception where folks had a chance to sample craft beers from across the country plus a fascinating tour of the new Sierra Nevada Brewery in town (fun fact on them: they bottle 900 bottles of beer a minute at that facility!)
Definitely the Yakima Valley and our hops were a popular topic. I was approached by beer focused tour operators about tours to the region for their clients, plus media were interested in doing stories on our hop culture and breweries.
Here’s a rundown of some of the facts shared by the Brewers Association and others:
- Beer sales in the USA are nearly $107 billion annually, more than double spent on wine.
- There are 5,300 breweries in the USA with 99% of them being considered craft or small breweries (under six million barrels or less per year).
- 69% of the beer produced in the USA come from just two producers.
- Craft beers sales on the rise: In 2011 just 6% of the beer volume was from craft breweries. In five years it has doubled to 12%.
- 36% of Americans visited one to five craft breweries in the past 12 months, according to a Nielsen Company poll.
- 77% of Americans stated in a Travelocity survey that they like to visit a craft brewery while traveling.
- There is at least one craft brewery located within 10 miles of 75% of the U.S. population.
- 10 million people took structured beer tours in 2014.
- There are 149 beer focused tour operators in America.
- Currently 75% of craft drinkers are male, but female craft consumers are growing.
- The USA is the number one destination in the world for beer fans.
We are blessed here in the Yakima Valley, not only for the fact that we grow 75% of America’s hops, but also that we have a growing beer scene. When I arrived here ten years ago we had four breweries in the Valley. Since then that number has doubled and there are four more breweries in the hopper (pardon the pun!). Our Yakima Fresh Hop Festival is renowned and was recently recognized by the Brewers Association as one of the 10 Craft Beer Festivals You Don’t Want To Miss in 2017. Other beer events have been created and hop growers are offering more educational opportunities for the home brewer and industry. Acreage planted to hops has grown 30% in the past two years to more than 35,000 acres. Plus the industry has added research facilities, most notably the John I Haas Innovation Center here in Yakima. Together, these make for a unique beer destination and experiences you can’t find anywhere else.
Breweries and the hop industry have a long history in the Yakima Valley. Except during the prohibition era, we’ve been growing hops since the late 1870s. In years past we had a few breweries that eventually closed, including the North Yakima Brewing and Malting Company which opened in 1905 and later, the Yakima Brewing & Malting Co (also known as Grant’s Brewery Pub), reputed to have been the first U.S. brewpub since prohibition.
With growing interest in the craft beer movement I think the future looks bright for our area. So raise a pint and say cheers to our local craft beer industry and our hop growers that make the whole beer industry great!