State at center of microbrewery growth

SEATTLE — Washington state is at the center of continuing growth in microbreweries, as one of four states that have a third of all U.S. breweries, according to a beer crafters’ lobbying group.

The Evergreen State holds a special distinction in that group that also includes California, Colorado and Oregon, The Seattle Times reports.

Washington, with 251 breweries, is only second to California in number of breweries. But Washington has a much higher brewery-to-inhabitant ratio than California, with a brewery per 27,000 inhabitants. Each of California’s 508 breweries represents about 74,800 inhabitants.

Washington also opened more new breweries than any other state except California last year — 62. That represented about 6.5 percent of the 948 mostly small breweries opened nationally in 2013.

Craft-brewing pioneers Redhook and Pyramid, plus Cascade hops, helped push Washington toward its status as a microbrewery leader.

In 2012, the industry directly generated 23,870 jobs and had a direct economic impact of $1.5 billion, according to the Beer Institute, the beer crafters’ Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group.

Most of the new permits went to brewpubs, among them Peddler Brewing Co. in Ballard, which opened in March 2013.

Co-owner Haley Woods said that in Seattle and the Northwest, people are very interested in learning about beer in the same way they have embraced wine and coffee. That creates “a bigger opportunity for brewers to make unique styles of beer and have people appreciate it,” she said.

Woods and her partner David Keller opened Peddler after years of brewing beer at home.

In contrast, Washington is surprisingly moderate when it comes to drinking beer. In 2012, per-capita consumption of malt beverages averaged 24.8 gallons for people over 21, below the national average of 28.2.

Drinking-age North Dakotans, the national champions, each guzzle 45.8 gallons on average, the Beer Institute says.

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