The Brooklyn Growler

"Life is all skittles and beer." — Tom Lehrer

Vermont No. 1 in Unofficial Per Capita List of U.S. Breweries

While doing some research yesterday, I began to wonder what state had the most breweries in the U.S. in 2010. Because I couldn’t find the data I wanted, I started collecting it myself.

The results were not what I expected. States with smaller populations actually had the largest per capita number of breweries. Vermont, with a population of just over 600,000 people topped the list, beating California which is just shy of 40 million people.

Go figure. Just because there are more people and more of a certain thing in a place, doesn’t mean that it diffuses as far into the culture. I think. I guess. I suppose.

Before I get to a sample of the data, I want to share my methods for the data collection.

First, I pulled all of the state-by-state population numbers from the 2010 Census. That includes all fifty states plus Washington, D.C. for a total of fifty-one entries. Second, I used Beer Advocate’s current list of Beer Places in the U.S. to get a statewide number of breweries. For this number, I combined both state-by-state numbers of breweries and brewpubs. The Brewer’s Association defines a brewpub as “A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on site.” They brew beer. Fair game. Then I calculated how many breweries each state had for each 100,000 residents.

This list is, of course, unofficial. These numbers have not been collected by any official agency or professional number cruncher. This 2010 per capita list was created primarily as an intellectual exercise. I welcome input, arguments, corrections, clarifications, and questions.

The data for previous years has been expertly compiled by the Brewer’s Association (2008) and by Lug Wrench Brewing (2009). I have not included their data in my chart, but I have referred to it for the purposes of this informal analysis.

Also, I have created a public Google spreadsheet of the data (plus here is a version you can manipulate). If you would like a copy as an Excel file or PDF, my contact info is in the sidebar.

That all said–

2010: Top 5 Breweries Per Capita U.S. States

2010 Rank State 2010 Population Breweries & Brewpubs Breweries Per 100,000
1 Vermont 625,741 21 3.36
2 Oregon 3,831,074 110 2.87
3 Maine 1,328,361 37 2.79
4 Montana 989,415 25 2.53
5 Wyoming 563,626 13 2.31

2010: Bottom 5 Breweries Per Capita U.S. States

2010 Rank State 2010 Population Breweries & Brewpubs Breweries Per 100,000
47 Texas 25,145,561 39 0.15
48 North Dakota 672,591 1 0.15
49 Arkansas 2,915,918 4 0.14
50 Alabama 4,779,736 5 0.1
51 Mississippi 2,967,297 1 o.3

The results indicate that even though a state might have the highest population, it does not have the highest number of breweries/brewpubs per capita. California’s population (37,253,956) makes it the highest-populated state in the U.S. and it also has the most breweries/brewpubs (255). However, it is No. 19 for per capita breweries on my list.

Vermont, which is No. 1 per capita, is the the 49th largest state by actual population. Since 2008 (at least) it has been the state with the most breweries per capita, according to the Brewer’s Association and Lug Wrench. The Top 5 shifts from year to year. Montana was at No. 2 in 2008, No. 3 in 2009, and has fallen to No. 4 in 2010.

Wyoming was the least-populated U.S. state in 2010 and yet it makes it into the Top 5 for per capita breweries. Montana is the forty-fourth most populated state, and it consistently remains in the Top 5.

To put this in perspective, states with the largest populations actually have the smallest per capita number of breweries. So Texas has 0.15 breweries for every 100,000 people, while Vermont has 3.36 breweries for every 100,000 people.

What conclusions can we draw from this informal sampling?

Except for North Dakota (Midwest), the Bottom 5 states are all southern states. Meanwhile, the Top 5 are in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast.

Though these northern states in the Top 5 have smaller populations of people, those people help foster environments that are rich in brewing beer – mostly craft beer. Does that mean those in the Top 5 produce the best beers in the country or, necessarily, have the best beer cultures?

No, not necessarily.

It does make me wonder… What’s more important? To have more to enjoy or to be able to enjoy less more?

All I can say is definitively is – let’s all go to Vermont and get drunk.

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Writing a Love Letter to Bar Keepers Friend

Being a neat freak, I know in my heart that no matter how neat my home might be – it is not neat enough. There’s a scratch on the fridge or a nick on the cabinet or a bit of grime that just can’t be removed from around the edge of the sink.

These are the things that will eventually lead me to my doom.

I’ve always liked washing the dishes. You can have physical proof of accomplishing something. The dishwasher also exceeds this need. Try as I might, though, you can’t run everything through a dishwasher.

Say you have a copper-bottom pan that is scorched from pan-frying dumplings. You can toss it in the dishwasher – I have – but it won’t do you any good. What do you do?

Flash-forward to 1892. A chemist in Indiana is cooking some rhubarb. The pot has become tarnished from years of cooking a bajillion things that aren’t rhubarb. He cooks his rhubarb; eats it, presumably. Later, he’s washing his pot. Lo and behold! The pot is no longer tarnished. What’s going on? he says to himself. The chemist retires to his study with the pot. He’s sprawled out on his swooning couch when all of a sudden it comes to him–

Oxalic acid!

He creates a powdered form of oxalic acid – one of the main components of rhubarb – and goes on a cleaning jag that only ends once he’s polished every tarnished pot and brass fixture in his home. One thing leads to another, and the chemist has begun selling this talcum-like powder to local saloon keepers. They love it.

This magical cleaning elixir is thus dubbed Bar Keepers Friend.

Back to my dumpling-scorched pan. A little bit of water. A sprinkle of Bar Keepers Friend. A swipe from the steel-wool brush. OMFG! Quesclamation marks fire above my head. How could something ever become this clean?!

With all the time you’ll save using Bar Keepers Friend, you could be writing nutso things like this.

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Sending Beer on a Zero Gravity Rainbow

Image via NASA Goddard / Flickr / Creative Commons

When and if commercial space flights become available, there’s going to be a beverage service. That’s the idea behind Astronauts4Hire‘s testing of a beer that could be consumed in zero gravity.

In its beer studies, the Florida-based non-profit is sending a specially brewed beer from Australia’s 4 Pines Brewing Co. aboard a Zero Gravity Corp. airplane. During Astronauts4Hire’s parabolic flight, the company will test everything from how the beer tastes to blood-alcohol content.

The end result of the tests should be a beer that can be served on commercial space flights like those being explored by Virgin Galactic or Space-X. Astronauts4Hire is hoping to train the first generation of private astronauts to work on those flights.

But in the here and now, I really do feel for the poor sod who has to suck down a beer on a parabolic flight. In order to achieve weightlessness, these zero-gravity planes fly in sharp angles up and then down, allowing for about thirty seconds of zero gravity at a time.

The problem, historically, with drinking beer in space hasn’t necessarily been one of sobriety but that carbonated beverages just make astronauts burp too much.

As New Scientist explains, “Beer is poorly suited to space consumption because of the gas it includes. Without gravity to draw liquids to the bottoms of their stomachs, leaving gases at the top, astronauts tend to produce wet burps.”

Another problem – which has been discovered in studies with soda – is that temperature fluctuations and changes in pressure can cause the carbonated bubbles to be released from the space-approved dispenser prematurely. Meaning – a big bunch of bubbles with froth and foam and collect in a cloud.

So in terms of beer, we’re not talking about a frothy head of beer pouring over the sides of your pint glass, but a giant cloud of foam squirting out of a beverage dispenser.

For you aspiring space brewers, a NASA study done in conjunction with the University of Colorado found that yeast ferments at a higher efficiency in micro-gravity environments, which makes the beer stronger.

Anyway, NASA has always maintained a strict policy of abstinence on its space flights and missions. Except for Buzz Aldrin taking communion after his moon walk, alcohol is verboten.

Drinking before a flight is a different story – yeah, NASA will fire ’em up to Soyuz even if they are wasted. Hell, drinking and space goes back to the birth of the U.S. space program. (You can get a taste of the drinking and driving and flying and exclamation marks in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.) Even so, the drinking and carousing was kept on Earth.

It’s a different scene in Russia. In Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars, she relates this anecdote:

“While I was in Russia, a cosmonaut, who requested anonymity, showed me one of his slides from space: two crew members with straws, floating on either side of a 5-liter tank of cognac like teenagers sharing a malt.”

But for those who can afford to be passengers on a space flight, the story is going to be a different one.

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Little Brewery, Big Dreams of a Hop Bust

The hubbub today about beer distributors opposing California’s Prop 19, which would legalize marijuana, made me think of this anecdote by Anchor Steam‘s Fritz Maytag.

In this video produced by Reason.tv, Maytag relates a story about trying to get busted in the sixties with a bag of hops in San Francisco (skip to about minute 2:55 for the story, but the whole video is great):

In Maytag’s words:

“I had to drive through the Haight every night. I used to get hop samples that are green fluffy leafy things, and at one point I realized we are desperate for publicity and there’d be nothing better than getting arrested for having what would look like something green and leafy in my car and turn out to be hops. Y’know, false arrest. ‘Brewer is arrested for hops.’ In those days there weren’t any ‘little breweries.’ I mean, nobody had ever heard of anybody owning a brewery. let alone driving around with hops. I put hops on the passenger seat of my car. I had a little Porsche, and I drove home with the hops on the seat for – back and forth – at least a week, hoping to get arrested. Well, you couldn’t get arrested in the Haight-Ashbury in those days.”

Even without the bust, things ended up working out for Maytag and Anchor Steam.

Fritz Maytag is the great-grandson of Fredrick Louis Maytag who founded the Maytag Corporation. In 1965, Maytag purchased San Francisco’s Steam Brewing Company, which produced Anchor Steam Beer. At the time, Anchor Steam was known for being a godawful beer that was so bad, its brewery was on the verge of shutting its doors forever.

Maytag purchased the company, changed its recipe and brewing process, and took his “little brewery” to the big time. His success helped inspire many the craft beer movement in the seventies and the creation of many microbreweries throughout the U.S.

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Brewers Staying out of Marijuana Legalization Debate

In California, beer distributors are getting together to oppose the proposed legalization of marijuana.

On the ballot in California this November will be Proposition 19, a measure that would legalize marijuana and allow it to be taxed and regulated. California Beer & Beverage Distributors have contributed $10,000 to a committee that opposes Proposition 19, reports the Redding Record Searchlight.

The donation went to Safety First, the main coalition opposing Prop 19.

“Unless the beer distributors in California have suddenly developed a philosophical opposition to the use of intoxicating substances, the motivation behind this contribution is clear,” said Steve Fox, Marijuana Policy Project government relations director in a press release. “Plain and simple, the alcohol industry is trying to kill the competition.”

Two law enforcement agencies that oppose Prop 19 include the California Police Chiefs Association, which has donated about $30,000 and the California Narcotics Officers’ Association, which has donated about $20,500.

Meanwhile, California brewers such as Sierra Nevada and Stone Brewing Co. took to their Facebook pages to release statements saying that neither company supports this campaign.

“Stone is not a part of this campaign in any way,” said Stone Brewing. “This issue has caught us of off guard. We are merely a non-voting Allied Member of the CA Beer & Beverage Distributors (CBBD). As such, Stone Brewing does not/cannot participate in the political action decisions of the CBBD.”

In its statement, Sierra Nevada also clarified its position.

“Although we are members of this organization, we were neither consulted – nor informed of – their decision to take a stand against California Proposition 19. Sierra Nevada’s role as an associate member grants no access or influence on the political agendas of the CBBD, and we had no knowledge of the organization’s intention to fight this ballot proposition,” said the company.

“We feel that people have the obligation to choose what is right for themselves without influence from outside interests,” Sierra Nevada said.

California has previously legalized medical marijuana.

Proposition 19 will be on the ballot in California on November 2, 2010.

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MillerCoors: Same Beer, Different Bottle

Is Blue Moon the biggest craft beer in America? That’s the idea put forth by Tom Long, president and chief commercial officer, of MillerCoors today.

Speaking to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Long said, “We have the biggest craft brand in America with Blue Moon and another one in the top five with Leinenkugel’s.”

Previously the company reported that second-quarter sales of Blue Moon and Leinenkugel’s saw double-digit growth amid flat or declining profits from Miller Lite and Coors Light. These sales figures are what have led MillerCoors to expand into the craft-beer market with Tenth and Blake.

In 2009, shipments of craft beers rose 4 percent to 4.3 percent, with companies like the Craft Brewers Alliance, which produces Redhook beer, and the Boston Beer Co., seller of Sam Adams, leading the charge of the craft-beer brigade.

So, it’s perhaps more accurate to say that Blue Moon is the biggest craft beer produced by MillerCoors and anything else is hyperbolic marketing speak.

One last thought. The most salient point made by Long was in regards to producing new products. “There are a lot of consumers out there that are serial triers,” he says to the Journal Sentinel. “So, in light beers, we have to use new packaging.”

Which is to say, it’s not what’s in the bottle that matters but just the bottle itself, thus spake Vortexathustra.

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