San Diego's independent breweries raked in an estimated $638 million in 2016
  • San Diego's independent breweries raked in an estimated $638 million in 2016
  • photo from San Diego Brewers Guild Facebook page
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How valuable is #sdbeer to the San Diego economy? According to a new report, craft beer made an $870 million impact on the local economy in 2016.

The report, “Economic Impact of Craft Breweries in San Diego County,” was published by Cal State San Marcos in conjunction with the San Diego Brewers Guild and the San Diego North Economic Development Council. The report's $870 million figure shows a 45 percent increase over the $600 million impact determined by a similar National University study for the year 2014.

The report focused on independently owned breweries only, which numbered 150 as of August 31st. This means county breweries achieved this reported growth without the help of corporate-owned breweries including Ballast Point, which has become the county's largest brewer since 2014 and produced an estimated 300,000-400,000 barrels on its own in 2016.

The report concludes independent San Diego breweries generated $638 million in revenue by producing roughly 900,000 barrels of beer. By comparison, the San Diego Zoo brought in $299 million, and Comic-Con $140 million.

These San Diego breweries paid $100 million in taxes while contributing $4.5 million to philanthropic efforts and paying 4326 employees.

A separate survey was also released this week, the “North County Craft Brew Report,” prepared by National University's Vince Vasquez for the North Economic Development Council. It breaks down data for the 36 percent of the county's breweries that reside in North County, defined as being north of highway 56 and including the city of Poway.

His data shows that locally produced beer made a $185.1 million economic impact in that region in 2016. Furthermore, it generated $220.3 million in direct sales — a more than 50 percent increase over three years — and paid an average salary of $39,260.

The North County report also shows that "North County craft breweries are mostly small, profitable, and locally-focused," and that all but 1 percent of North County beer sales are made within the state of California, suggesting that "there are clear opportunities for greater tourism and hospitality sector partnerships."

It's timely news, coming in the midst of San Diego Beer Week, which is designed to showcase local beer and stimulate beer tourism. Even in North County, tourism already seems to be a large driver of growth. The economic impact report points out that 55,000 people toured the Stone Brewery in Escondido in 2016, making it the third-most-popular tourist destination in North County, behind Legoland and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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