Craft Breweries and Economic Development: Local Geographies of Beer

Neil Reid, Jay D. Gatrell


The United States is home to over 5,000 craft breweries. Approximately 65% of these craft breweries have opened since 2010. In this paper, we review the academic and popular literature on the industry, as well as select place-based examples, to present a meta-analysis that explores the growth of craft breweries through a “place-based” lens that posits the popularity of craft beer is due to several key factors: 1.) a renewed interest in supporting local economies through the purchase of locally-made products, 2.) the growing importance of the millennial cohort in retail markets as a driver of the demand for craft beer, and 3.) local economic development strategies. With respect to economic development, the paper references the role of craft breweries in the economic revitalization of older neighborhoods, as well as the emergences of beer tourism.  Beer tourism, as we will demonstrate, is associated with economic clusters in the form of identifiable brewery districts, festivals, and as well as other creative efforts such as beer trails. Finally, we provide some concluding observations with an emphasis on the future growth potential of the craft beer industry.


Beer tourism; Craft breweries; Geographies of beer; Local economic development

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