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Study: Craft Brewers Boosted Maine's Economy By $260 Million In 2017

Lori Valigra
Bangor Daily News
Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers' Guild in South Portland, says brewers continue to open not only in population centers but also rural areas of Maine, leading to further economic development.

Craft breweries in Maine continued to grow in number and in output in 2017 and are likely to do so for the foreseeable future, a new economic impact study found.Breweries and related activities by their suppliers and employees contributed a total of $260.4 million to the Maine economy in 2017, up from $225 million in 2016, according to a report released Wednesday by the Maine Brewers’ Guild and the University of Maine School of Economics.

That translates into $1.5 million in excise taxes, $168 million in beer sold and 2,560 jobs with a total of $54.8 million in wages. Most of that, roughly 1,910 workers, was direct employment, up from 1,600 in 2016. Another 650 jobs were attributed to the multiplier effect of expenditures by brewery suppliers and employees.

“Maine continues to see growth in the craft beer industry at a rate that has outpaced the national growth of craft breweries,” Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild in South Portland, said. “There were 62 craft breweries in the state in 2015 and more than 135 at the end of 2018. That’s about double in three years.” In 2017 there were 114 breweries, up from 85 in 2016.

Nationally, the number of breweries grew 16 percent in 2017 compared to 34 percent in Maine. The Pine Tree State saw 19 breweries open between January 2017 and January 2018. Cumberland County still had the largest number of breweries at 46 at the end of 2018 compared to 37 in 2017.

Penobscot, York and Knox counties have significant numbers of new breweries. Penobscot had 12 breweries at the end of 2018, up from one in 2007. York had 18, up from two in 2007 and Knox had seven, up from zero in 2007.

Maine's craft brewers continue to make their mark on the state and national levels by growing their numbers faster than the national average. The report is based on poll responses from 36 percent of the members of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, which has 135 members, including some breweries with multiple memberships.

Maine breweries also attracted 9.8 million tourists stopping in for a tour or tasting in 2017. That’s one in five tourists to the state, the study found.

Sullivan said it’s important that breweries are opening all around Maine, not just in population centers but in small towns where they help further economic development.

There are four breweries with pending memberships in the guild: Michaud et Filles in Scarborough, Blaze Brewing Co. in South Portland, Ambition Brewing in Wilton and Orchard Girls in Kingfield. All are awaiting licences, Sullivan said.

Sullivan said craft breweries are aggressively eroding market share from large breweries as beer drinkers show a preference for beer brewed in their community.

“But craft beer still is a small portion of the national beer market,” he said. “We have a long way to go and to grow.”

The craft brewing industry nationwide contributed $76.2 billion to the U.S. economy in 2017 and more than 500,000 jobs, according to the Brewers Association, a national brewery group based in Boulder, Colorado.

It estimated the overall beer market at $111.4 billion in 2017, with craft beer being $26 billion, or 8 percent of the total. By the number of barrels output, craft beer had a 12.7 percent market share.

Maine’s output at 319,590 barrels of beer in 2017 is expected to grow 10 percent by 2019 and 15 percent by 2020, according to the report. Employment growth is estimated at 5 percent in 2020 and 7 percent by 2021, driven by more openings of small breweries.

Sullivan said the impact of President Donald Trump’s policies differs among brewers. Those policies include import tariffs on aluminum that increased the price of cans and the ongoing government shutdown, which has not allowed certain breweries to open or sell new products out of state because they cannot get a federal brewers notice or labeling approval.

“The impact of the government shutdown varies,” Sullivan said.

One brewery hit hard by the shutdown is SoMe Brewing Co. Its owners want to open its second brewery, York Beach Brewing Co. on Route 1A, but the government shutdown has delayed the issuance of the necessary notice from the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau, which is closed.

“York Beach can’t open a new location due to the government shutdown, and that is catastrophic,” Sullivan said.

This story appears through a media sharing agreement with Bangor Daily News.