Another milestone: 245 breweries, but what does that mean?

It was probably two or three years ago that people started asking me the question and I’ve heard several different versions of it. When will this madness stop? How many more breweries can we stand? At what point will we reach saturation?

My answer today is the same as it was then: not yet. In my opinion, as long as the total number of craft beer drinkers and enthusiasts continues to grow, and it does in fact continue to grow as I write this, there is room for more breweries. Sure, the sheer number of breweries makes it increasingly difficult to get bottles on the shelf at the grocery store, or beers on tap at the local pub, but that is a different issue.

This week, Flying Lion Brewing opened in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. Today, Urban Family Brewing (not exactly new) opens its new brewery and tasting room in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood. Tomorrow, Downpour Brewing opens in Kingston, which I’ve now included in my counting. That’s three new breweries in one week. I’ve reported on them all in recent days here on the blog.

By my reckoning, there are now 245 licensed breweries producing beer in Washington. It’s hard to determine an exact, or real, number. Is Ram Brewing one brewery or five? How about McMenamins? What about the nano-breweries that produce infinitesimally small amounts of beer? I do what I can. My number is exactly that: my number. It is based on the number of licenses issued by the state as well as evidence I gather that a licensed brewery actually produces beer. I have my sources.

Yesterday I checked in with the Washington State Liquor Control Board to see about the number of breweries in planning. In the past 30 days the WSLCB approved 13 microbrewery licenses. Six of these licenses were issued to residential addresses and seven appear to be non-residential, commercial addresses.

Beyond that, the WSLCB recently received, and is considering, three more applications.

In my experience, only about one-third of these “breweries in planning” or “breweries in dreaming” actually come to fruition. That’s being optimistic. The vast majority vanish into the ether as the next steps present themselves.

So there you have it. The number of the counting shall be 245. Not shall it be 243. Nor shall it be 244, unless immediately followed by 245.

246 is right out.

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  1. Is Holy Mountain in your tally? I believe they are producing now. I know of yet another Ballard brewery with a location leased and a brew-house ordered too.

  2. I’m not as concerned about overall market saturation, as I am about *quality* saturation. Most people know me as a beer fan. I like to think I have as little brand bias, and style bias as possible. But, what I worry about is an over saturation of mediocrity, and what that may mean to the “new” or “casual” craft beer fan. Does anyone else have an opinion on this? I don’t think I am right or wrong here – I just think about this a lot.. Also, Let’s leave specific breweries out of this part too, that’s not fair to all of the dreamers out there…

  3. It is concerning when new breweries open up and make bad beer. So sad that some “homebrewers gone pro” cannot taste what people in the pro brewing world consider flaws. Its not good for the industry. If a brewery opens up and fails to do anything interesting, I’m okay with that as long as the usual regiment of beers –pale, ipa, porter, stout– are done well. But if all the beers are tainted with phenol, or diacetyl… sad. Bad for the industry.

    1. Totally agree with that last comment Kendall. There are a few on the Eastside that are barely past the quality of the first extract brew they ever made. It taints the pond. Got PostDoc Brewing on your upcoming radar screen?

  4. Now if more of them would stop focusing on making super hoppy IPA’s and branch out into more styles Craft Beer would gain an even wider acceptance,

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