An Update on Oregon’s Brewing IndustryJuly 5, 2017 The brewing industry seems to be getting overshadowed by the quickly growing and recently legalized recreational cannabis industry. Despite the lack of media attention, the industry continues to grow, albeit at a slower pace.
There were around 220 brewing establishments in Oregon in 2016. A brewing establishment is defined as any location with onsite brewing, including large manufacturing breweries, brew pubs, and nano breweries. Those establishments with at least one covered employee and brewing on site were included in this analysis. As a result home brewers and pubs without onsite brewing were not included.
The industry saw a net gain of 12 brewing establishments in 2016, a growth rate around 6 percent. Although the industry continues to add breweries at a fast pace, the rate of growth is slower compared with previous years. For instance, 2015 saw a gain of 18 breweries (~10% growth). This slowdown is twofold. First, there were fewer new breweries established in 2016. Second, we are beginning to see more brewery closures. Fourteen brewing establishments fell out of the state payroll system in 2016, compared with only five closures in 2015. A few of the reported closures include Southern Oregon Brewing, Humble Brewing, Fire Mountain Brew House, Buckman Botanical, and Twisted Snout.
Slower growth in new breweries translated into slower employment growth. These 220 brewing establishments accounted for an annual average of 6,730 jobs in 2016. Employment was up by more than 500 jobs from 2015, a gain of around 8 percent. The level of growth in the brewing industry outpaced Oregon’s employment situation with total nonfarm employment growing by less than 3 percent during the same period. However, gains in the statewide brewing industry were subdued compared with recent years. Between 2014 and 2015, the brewing industry added around 740 jobs, an astonishing growth rate of more than 13 percent.
The brewing industry is seasonal with the summer employment (3rd quarter) roughly 10 percent higher than the annual average. This seasonality is heavily influenced by brewpubs, which tend to see higher employment during the summer season, similar to other restaurants and drinking places. Brewpubs are also largely responsible for pulling down the average annual pay in the brewing industry due to a high number of traditional restaurant service jobs. The average annual wage in the brewing industry ($30,250) was significantly higher than the food service industry ($18,500), but noticeable lower than the statewide average annual wage of $49,500.
There is a popular belief that Oregon reached “peak beer,” meaning the current supply of breweries is sufficient to meet the current (and short-term future) demand. However, the industry continues to grow, albeit at a slower pace. It would be hard to make a case that the brewing industry peaked when employment in that sector expanded by 8 percent in the past year.