Beer good; local beer economic benefits, better, according to new CSUSM study

Bagby Beer Company, 601 S. Coast Hwy. Oceanside./Courtesy

A new Cal State University San Marcos (CSUSM) report released Tuesday reveals that San Diego County’s independent craft brewers produced an economic impact of approximately $1.2 billion in 2018, driving a total industry revenue of $848 million. To read the full report, visit here.

In 2018, San Diego County saw its craft brewing family grow to a total of 155 independent craft brewers, bringing the region to a total of 202 operating brewery locations, the report revealed.

The data was assembled by the California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) Office of Business Research & Analysis, in collaboration with the San Diego Brewers Guild (SDBG), and was released during the inaugural San Diego Craft Beer Con event which brought area brewers together for seminars and panels on topics that directly impact the local craft beer community as well as San Diego County tourism and hospitality industries.

Data, however, indicated that brewery openings slowed starting in 2017, but have rose slightly since. The majority of breweries are packed into Central San Diego, hosting 55% of craft breweries in the county, the report says. North County holds the second largest piece, with 32.5 percent of breweries, following by East County with 8.1 percent, and the South Bay with 4.4 percent.

The data leading to the above conclusions was collected from multiple sources during the first quarter of 2019, including IBISWorld, the Brewers Associationand California Craft Brewers Association. CSUSM’s report does not account for the impact of breweries that do not meet the SDBG’s qualifications for inclusion as an “independent brewery” due to acquisition by macro-beer conglomerates, meaning data pertaining to local interests Ballast Point Brewing (owned by Constellation Brands), Saint Archer Brewery (owned by MillerCoors) and 10 Barrel Brewing (owned by A-B InBev) was not factored in.

Known as the “Capital of Craft,” San Diego’s craft beer industry has a longstanding and significant financial influence on the region. The impact growth rate has increased by 6 percent from 2017, outpacing the growth of the craft brewing industry nationwide – which has been reported at 4.8 percent.

In another measurement of craft beer’s outlook in San Diego, the report’s craft beer confidence index stood at 91, which the report says indicates a strong outlook over the next year. The index surveys how respondents feel about barrelage production, distribution, employment, and capital expenditures.

The report, adding that San Diego will soon see its own Museum of Beer in 2020, highlights the region’s outlook for craft beer, breweries, and the industry’s impact.

This third annual report measures the craft brewing sector’s wide-reaching effects through direct and indirect factors, including brewery operating costs, regional employment and its induced impact and production taxes. The survey also reports on the consistent significance of the industry’s ongoing philanthropic support of local and state-run nonprofit organizations, with 2018 donations estimated at $5 million.

Belching Beaver Brewery, 302 E. Broadway, Vista./Courtesy

“When consumers consider purchasing beer, we want them to understand the importance of consciously choosing local, independent craft brands,” said Todd Colburn, secretary of the San Diego Brewers Guild, adjunct professor at CSUSM and founder of Higher Gravity Brand Advocates.

“The San Diego Brewers Guild is committed to educating consumers and promoting the value of San Diego-brewed indie beer,” Colburn said, “because the county’s craft brewing community is a driving force for the local economy on multiple levels. This is an industry that consistently reciprocates by giving back to our region, and we proudly emphasize the relevance of our longstanding ‘Capital of Craft’ moniker.”

Miguel de Jesus, director of business development for CSUSM’s College of Business Administration said: “CSUSM is proudly the home of various craft beer-centric programs dedicated to exploring and documenting the history in our ‘Capital of Craft,. We enjoy a very special relationship with the craft beer community and are always eager to collaborate with the San Diego Brewers Guild to measure and report on the economic impact that this very important industry has on our region.”

The full San Diego Craft Beer Economic Impact Report was released during the San Diego Craft Beer Con event. To view the executive summary with 2018 figures, click here. More information about the San Diego Brewers Guild and its members is available at

Additional findings of the report are as follows:

  • No state has a larger number of operational craft breweries as California with more than 900.
  • California ranked second in the U.S. in craft-beer production with 3.4 million barrels.
  • In 2018, San Diego craft breweries produced 1.13 million barrels of beer (up 3% from 2017) representing a third of the beer produced in California.
  • At the start of 2019, San Diego County boasted 202 venues owned by independent brewing interests.
  • San Diego County craft-brewing companies provided 6,480 jobs.
  • Local independent brewers’ contributions to non-profit organizations and charity campaigns totaled $5 million in 2018.
  • As of January 2019, there were more than 900 craft breweries operating in California, which ranks as the state with the highest number of craft breweries in the nation.
  • Craft brewers in California produced 3.4 million barrels of beer in 2018, making it the second-highest state in the nation for beer production.
  • As of January 2019, there were 155 independent craft brewers operating in San Diego County. Several of these breweries have tasting rooms/pubs under the same brand license, which brings the total number of brewery-operated locations to 202.
  • In 2018, San Diego brewers reported production totals of 1.13 million barrels. This represents a 3 percent increase in output since 2017.
  • San Diego independent craft brewers’ philanthropic contributions totaled an estimated $5 million in 2018, supporting nonprofit organizations in the county and state.
  • Released in spring 2019, the “Craft Brewer Confidence Index” survey assembled by CSUSM and San Diego Business Journal recorded a confidence index of 91, indicating an optimistic outlook for the craft brewing industry in the county over the next 12 months.

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