The Prohibition Chronicles

A few weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, along with my wife and two friends, I attended the premier of  “Toledo: The Prohibition Chronicles”. The sixty minute documentary told the story of gangsters and bootleggers who operated in Toledo during the Prohibition era. In particular, it focused on the battle between Toledo bootlegger, Jack Kennedy and Yonnie Licavoli, head of Detroit’s Licavoli Gang, as they fought for control of Toledo’s illicit booze industry. The documentary was produced by University of Toledo alumnus, Charissa Gracyk, with help from her cousin Gillian Perdeau. The venue for the documentary’s premier was the Nelson Theater in the city’s Collingwood Arts Center.

Prohibition,  which outlawed the production, sale, and consumption of alcohol, was ushered in with the passage of the 18th Amendment. It took effect on January 17, 1920.  Prohibition lasted thirteen years. Repeal of the 18th Amendment was complete, with the ratification of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933. Ohio, like some other states, actually went dry before Federal Prohibition took effect. Prohibition in Ohio started on May 27, 1919. Ohio voters had went to the polls on November 5, 1918 to vote on The Ohio Prohibition on Alcohol Amendment (also known as Amendment 2). Amendment 2 passed by a margin of 51.4% to 48.6%. One year earlier, on November 6, 1917, Ohioans had rejected Prohibition (Amendment 1), 53% to 47%. The Anti-Saloon League, one of the organizations favoring Prohibition, was actually founded in Oberlin, OH in 1893. In 1905, by which time it was a powerful national organization, it moved its headquarters to Westerville, OH. Indeed, if you ever find yourself in Westerville, you might consider paying a visit to the Anti-Saloon League Museum.

In an informative essay titled Raising Our Glass: Saloon Culture in Toledo, Ohio, Arnette Hawkins describes the scene in Toledo on the final Saturday evening before the start of Prohibition. Drinking saloons were filled to capacity, with the customers including many revelers from nearby Michigan, where Prohibition had already kicked-in. In the last few days before the start of Prohibition in Ohio (between May 24 and 26 to be exact), there were one hundred individuals in Toledo who were arrested for being drunk and disorderly. When the fated day arrived, and Prohibition took effect, some Toledo saloons closed their doors. A few of them hung signs in their doorways that read, among other things, “Back Soon” and “Voters didn’t think and now they can’t drink”. Others found ways to stay open, rebranding themselves as soft drinks parlors or social centers.

When Prohibition went into effect, breweries looked to alternative products and markets as a means to stay in business.  D.G. Yuengling & Son of Pottsville, PA, for example, transitioned into Yuengling Dairy Products Corporation, and produced ice-cream. Pabst Brewing of Milwaukee, WI also went into the dairy business, with cheese being their primary product. The cheese was produced on a farm in upstate Wisconsin and aged in the brewery’s ice cellars. Toledo’s Buckeye Brewery survived Prohibition by producing soft drinks such as ginger ale and root beer. A number of breweries produced malt extract during Prohibition. Obstensibly, this was for use in the baking of bread; some labels on the cans of malt extract even told how much to use in bread making. In reality, the vast majority of malt extract was probably used to produce homebrewed beer. In the city of Lima, OH enough malt extract was sold in one week to brew four hundred thousand pints (fifty thousand  gallons) of beer. Had it been used for bread, it could have produced sixteen loaves for every man, woman, and child living in Lima (clearly it was not all being used to  make bread).

Labeling tunnels beneath the old Jackson Brewery in Cincinnati, OH

By the time Prohibition started, Lager was the most popular style of beer in the United States. Producing Lager involved storing it at cool temperatures for up to several months (the name Lager comes from the German verb ‘to store’). This meant that breweries had large cellars (lagering cellars or tunnels), where they stored beer during the lagering process. As noted above, Pabst used their cellars to age cheese. Other breweries thought of innovative ways to use their cellars. Breweries in Mansfield, OH, for example, even considered using their lagering cellars for growing mushrooms or providing a haven for hay fever sufferers. A number of breweries closed during Prohibition and re-opened when alcohol production was legal again; Jackson Brewery in Cincinnati, OH was one such brewery. Yet others closed their doors, never to open again.

While Prohibition did have a negative impact on breweries, it is worth noting that the number of breweries was already declining prior to Prohibition (see chart below). For example, between 1900 and 1916,  the number of breweries in the United States fell from 1,816 to 1,313. So while Prohibition never did the brewing industry any favors, consolidation as a result of closures, mergers, and acquisitions, was already under way.

Number of Breweries in United States, 1873-2016 (Source: Brewers Association)

It was still possible to produce beer during Prohibition, with the stipulation that its alcohol content did not exceed one half of one percent. This is what was known an ‘near beer’. (Note: Beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% is often mistakenly referred to as ‘near beer’).

One of the beneficiaries of American Prohibition were breweries in Canada, who supplied bootleggers in the United States with beer. The length of Prohibition in Canada varied by province, ranging from two years in Quebec (1919-1921) to forty-seven years in Prince Edward Island (1901-1948). Even when under their own Prohibition restrictions, Canadian breweries were not prohibited from exporting Beer to the United States. In fact, in 1924, eleven small Canadian breweries established the Bermuda Export Company, a cartel, whose express purpose was to export beer to the United States. Such was the importance of the American market to Canadian breweries that, during the first five years of U.S. Prohibition, eighty percent of the Beer produced in Canada was exported to the United States.

Prohibition in Canadian Provinces (Source: Eberts 2007)

In 1930, under pressure from the United States, Canada made it illegal for their breweries to export beer to the United States. Bootleggers circumvented this restriction by indicating on customs forms that the beer was bound other markets such as Cuba or Mexico. In reality the bootleggers’ boats would offload their cargo in Detroit, and be back in Canada an hour later. Customs officials, probably bribed, turned a blind eye. Four trips between Canada and ‘Cuba’ in a day meant that these boats were dubbed the “fastest boats on water”.

Not surprisingly, there are a number of modern day craft breweries whose names are inspired by Prohibition. These include Southern Prohibition Brewing (Hattiesburg, MS), Speakeasy Ales and Lagers (San Francisco, CA), Bootlegger’s Brewery (Fullerton, CA), and 21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco, CA). And, of course, there are dozens of beers connected to the Prohibition era by virtue of their names. Examples include Boscos Prohibition Pilsener (Boscos Brewing Company, Memphis, TN), 18th Amendment Imperial IPA (Bootleggers’s Brewery, Fullerton, CA) and Suspension Pre-Prohibition Cream Ale (Brew Keepers, Wheeling, WV).

The United States and Canada are not the only countries to experiment with a prohibition on alcohol. At different points in their history, other countries, including Finland, and Iceland have banned alcohol. There are a number of countries today where alcohol is not permitted. These are mainly Muslim countries and include Afghanistan, Iran, and Kuwait.

Further Reading:

Stack, Martin H. No date. A concise history of America’s brewing industry. Available here.


How Many Breweries?

Every now and then, I come across a headline that raises the question as to whether we are reaching saturation point with respect to the number of craft breweries that we have in the United States. Very often, the question is asked with regard to a particular city. Examples of such headlines include:

Does San Diego have too many breweries?

How many is too many? Two more breweries announce openings in Grand Rapids

Is Cleveland over served by breweries?

For the record, there were 5,301 breweries in the United States at the end of 2016, of which 5,234 were craft breweries. The five metropolitan areas with the largest knumber of craft breweries in 2016 were:

  • Seattle, WA                   123 breweries
  • San Diego, CA              115 breweries
  • Portland, OR                 114 breweries
  • Los Angeles, CA             96 breweries
  • Denver, CO                       93 breweries

The answer to the question as to how many breweries a particular town or city can support is – it depends. It depends on a number of factors; and the existence and strength of these factors differ from place to place. So what are some of the factors that might determine how many breweries a city can support? And what are the strategies that individual breweries (and places) might pursue in order to increase their probability of success in what is becoming an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace?

Population Size and Composition

It would seem obvious that larger cities can support more breweries. Generally speaking there is a truth to this. Portland, OR whose metropolitan area has 2.2 million people has more breweries than Bend, OR, whose metropolitan area has a population of 165,000.  However, Portland also has more breweries than some larger metropolitan areas, including for example, New York and Los Angeles. So clearly there is more than just population size influencing the number of breweries in a place.

Millennials, such as these at Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland, OH, are the driving force behind craft beer’s popularity.

One of those other factors seems to be the population composition of a place. Market research shows the Millennial cohort (21-37 year olds) to be the primary driver behind craft beer’s popularity. So, if a city has more younger people (Millennials) then it may be able to support more craft breweries, than a city whose population has a greater percentage of older people. Some research that I have done with my colleagues Ralph McLaughlin and Mike Moore shows that the number one factor, determining how many craft breweries that a metropolitan area can support, is the share of its population who are in the 25-44 age range; the greater the percentage share of 25-44 year olds, the more craft breweries you tend to find.

Beer Tourism
Beer tourists at Heist Brewery in Charlotte, NC

The number of breweries that a city can support may not only depend on the size and composition of its resident population, but  also  on its ability to attract visitors, i.e. tourists, from outside.  Beer tourism is becoming increasingly popular. A town that is a tourist destination may be able to support a greater number of breweries than a similar sized town that is not a tourist destination. Indeed, breweries themselves may become tourist attractions, drawing visitors in from its surrounding communities and even further afield. A number of communities, including Grand Rapids, MI, have been able to attract a growing number of so-called beer tourists to their community. A community than can attract a lot of tourists is not solely dependent upon its resident population to support its craft breweries; thus may have a larger number of breweries than you might expect based upon its population size and composition.

Vermont has more craft breweries per capita than any other state

Neolocalism refers to the preference of individuals to purchase products and services that are produced locally by individuals who live in the community. Activities in which neolocalists engage include supporting the local music scene, purchasing locally produced fruits and vegetables from a farmers market, and drinking beer brewed at a local brewery. Some people are more committed to neolocalism than others. The more people in a city that have a preference for local products, the more likely it is that it can support a larger number of craft breweries. In the aforementioned research that I did with McLaughlin and Moore, we found that metropolitan areas that have more farmers markets (a proxy for Neolocalism) are more likely to have more craft breweries (even after we controlled for other factors such as the size and composition of the population). In another blog entry, earlier this year, I addressed the issue as to why the state of Vemont leads the nation in the number of craft breweries per capita. One of the key factors in explaining this, is the fact that Vermont is number one when it comes to local food initiatives. On a per capita basis, Vermont has more farmers markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) than any other state. On a per capita basis, it also has more hospitals that are pledged to purchasing local food than any other state. Indeed, on seven variables that measure a state’s commitment to purchasing and eating locally-produced food, Vermont ranks first on six of them. So it is no surprise that the state ranks top on craft breweries per capita – Vermonters love local food and love local beer. Indeed,  Vermonters drink more craft beer per capita (19.6 gallons per adult of legal drinking age) than any other state in the union.

Size and Type of Breweries

The size and typeof the craft breweries themselves is also important. The largest type of brewery, as defined by the Brewers Association, is what is called a Regional Craft Brewery. These are breweries that produce between fifteen thousand and six million barrels of beer per year. They tend to serve geographically extensive markets. For example, Boston Beer Company sells its beer in all fifty states, as well as internationally. Bell’s Brewery, who have breweries in Comstock, MI and Kalamazoo, MI, distribute their beer to thirty-two states and Washington, D.C. In 2016, there were 186 Regional Craft Breweries in the United States.

Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery distribute their beer in thirty-two states and DC (Source: Bell’s Brewery).

As Regional Craft Breweries are not dependent upon the size of the local market, they can be found in smaller communities . Perhaps the best example of this is the Spoetzl Brewery.  Spoetzl is located in Shiner, TX (population 2,069). Spoetzl ‘s beers (including its flagship Shiner Bock) is available for sale in most parts of the country. In my city of Toledo, OH, I can buy beers brewed by Spoetzl in several dozen bars and retail outlets. The amount of beer that the Spoetzl Brewery produces has nothing to do with the size of the town in which it is located.

Bars and retailers in Toledo, OH that sell beer brewed by Spoetzl Brewery (Source: Spoetzl Brewery)

Breweries that produce under fifteen thousand barrels annually are classified as either Brewpubs or Microbreweries. The Brewers Association defines a Brewpub as “a restaurant-brewery that sells 25 percent or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the [brewery’s] restaurant and bar.” A Microbrewery, on the other hand, sells 75 percent or more of its beer off-site. Most of the beer it sells reaches the consumer via bars, restaurants, or retail outlets such as liquor stores. A sub-category of Brewpubs/Microbreweries are Nano Breweries.  The Brewers Association does not provide a definition of a Nanobrewery. In fact, very few states define a Nano Brewery. One notable exception is New Hampshire, who  define a Nanobrewery as one which produces under two thousand barrels of beer per year.

Like Regional Craft Breweries, Microbreweries are less dependent upon foot-traffic. They distribute most of their beer to a larger geographic market, and sell it via bars, restaurants, and retail outlets (liquor stores etc.). Think of Microbreweries as small-scale versions of Regional Craft Breweries.

Brewpubs, as noted above, sell most of their beer on-site. As such, they are very dependent upon foot-traffic (either in the form of residents or visitors) to sell their beer. In addition to beer, another attraction of Brewpubs is food. Indeed, the food aspect of Brewpubs is one that is often overlooked. According to the journalist Rebecca Skoch, the fact that Brewpubs sell food, makes them “just as much restaurants as breweries.” The dual-offerings of beer and food has the potential to attract more customers. The food has to be good though. Brewpubs are increasingly recognizing the importance of high quality food. A number of Brewpubs in Chicago, for example, “are refocusing to champion their food, bringing in seasoned chefs to create more polished and elegant menus that will garner as much attention as their beers.” Indeed, Chicago is home to the country’s first Michelin-rated Brewpub – Band of Bohemia. Not all Brewpubs need to provide Michelin-rated food to keep customers happy. An above average hamburger or pizza will probably suffice.

Size of brewery and the primary venue for sales (on-site versus off-site) influences how many breweries a city can sustain. The larger the geographic footprint of a brewey’s market area, the less important the size and composition of the local market is likely to be. In other words, the city is more important as a production location, and less important as market place. So a small city could, theoretically be home to a large number of breweries which are focused primarily on external markets. When it comes to Brewpubs (and Nanobreweries) the size of individual establishments is important. A city could support a large number of Nanobreweries, each producing low volumes of beer annually. In an article in San Diego Magazine, Bruce Glassman asked “Can San Diego sustain 100 Green Flashes? [a Regional Craft Brewery] Probably not. Can it sustain 200 “nanos” making 500 barrels a year? Entirely possible.”

Market Focus

Closely related to size and type of brewery is market focus. Indeed, the three are inextricably intertwined. One of the strategic decisions facing the owners of craft breweries is the extent to which their growth and success is going to be dependent upon nurturing local markets or focusing upon penetrating geographically more distant markets. By definition, Regional Craft Breweries, such as Stone Brewing and New Belgium Brewing, have been very successful by pursuing the latter of these two strategies. There seems to be an emerging consensus, however, that new craft  breweries (and many existing ones) should focus on developing their local market. Intuitively, this makes sense. The market nationally is not large enough for an additional five thousand New Belgiums (see Bruce Glasman’s quote in the previous paragraph). It might be large enough, however, for an additional five  thousand small-scale Brewpubs, that are focused on serving high quality beer and food to locals and tourists. Focusing on the local market allows a brewery to develop a loyal following of consumers. Writing in Wine & Craft Beverage News, Tamara Scully suggests that:

“One advantage to staying locally focused is the connection to the local consumer, and even control over the product. If a local bar is having issues with the tap, a small brewer can respond. If a bar sells out unexpectedly, distributing your own product can mean a rapid response time, for example.”

Nine Giant Brewing, which opened in Cincinnati, OH, in 2015 focuses on attracting patrons from  its Pleasant Ridge (and surrounding) neighborhood(s). According to co-owner, Brandon Hughes:

“When we started, we wanted to be part of a community. I want to know our regular customers because they live down the street. Our success hinges on our ability to attract those customers and deliver them an experience that compels them to come back and visit us again.”

There is scientific research supporting the contention that smaller breweries, focused on more geographically constrained markets, may be the most prudent approach. According to a study published by Wesson and João Nieva de Figueiredo in the Journal of Business Venturing, the most “successful microbreweries are geographically focused, often producing specialized products with a strong local flavor”.

The Future

So what does the future hold for craft beer in America’s towns and cities? As a Geographer, I would argue that geography is important. Bart Watson, Chief Economist of the Brewers Association, agrees. Watson recognizes importance of place (and differences between places) when trying to figure out how many breweries a particular city can support. As noted by Watson, “it varies by all the demographics and socioeconomics and rules of a place.” Watson also believes that most markets can support more breweries. In an interview in January 2017, Watson  stated that, “while the craft brewing industry is entering a period of maturation, most markets are not near saturation.”

Ratio Beerworks is one of the many breweries in Denver’s River North neighborhood. I visited Ratio while in Denver last month.

In an article about the market for craft beer in Philadelphia, PA, journalist Mark Dent makes an interesting observation. He suggests that, “thanks to increased consumer desire for locally-made beer, brewpubs have the potential to steal market share from non-brewing neighborhood bars and restaurants.” If Brewpubs are able to steal market share from bars and restaurants, this opens up considerable room for additional growth, and for more Brewpubs to enter the market. Of course, if Brewpubs are successful in attracting customers from bars and restaurants, it could result in some of the latter going out of business. Another city having discussions about craft brewery market saturation is Denver, CO. One area of the city where craft brewery growth is especially prominent is the River North (RiNo) neighborhood (I had an opportunity to visit RiNo last month). RiNo is home to over ten craft breweries. Eric Nichols is a brewer with one of RiNo’s breweries- Beryl’s Beer Co. In describing the drinking scene in RiNo, Nicols says, that, “instead of bars, we have breweries”. An exaggeration admittedly (there are bars in RiNo), but Nichols’ larger point should not be lost. According to Mike Hess, co-owner and Head Brewer, at River North Brewery, many of new craft breweries in the neighborhood have opened “cozy taprooms” and in so doing are going for the “nice neighborhood pub feel”. Hess believes that there is room for more Brewpubs in RiNo.  And it is not just in Denver that such observations are being made. Bryant Goulding, one of the co-owners of Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati, OH describes some of the newer, smaller breweries that are opening up as the “equivalent of the neighborhood bar with a brewhouse.”

So it seems that focusing on local, perhaps even hyper-local, markets might be the key to success in an increasingly crowded market place.  Providing a ‘neighborhood bar’ type ambience, along with high quality food, may also be critical success factors. Of course, the beer has to good as well. The number of breweries that any particular city can sustain will depend upon local conditions, including the size and composition of its resident population and its ability to attract beer tourists. And the places themselves also have an important part to play in brewery success. Whether they adjust zoning ordinances to be more brewery friendly, or promote their breweries to out-of-town visitors, the town and cities that breweries call home can make it easier for new breweries to enter the market and for existing ones to sell more beer.

Further Reading:

McLaughlin, Ralph B. Neil Reid, and Michael S. Moore. 2016. Inter-metropolitan location patterns of commercial craft brewing in the United States. Studies in Regional Science, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp. 15-129.

Wesson T, Nieva de Figueiredo (2001) The importance of focus to market: A study of microbrewery performance. Journal of Business Venturing, Volume 16, Issue 4: pp. 377–403.



2017 – The Year in Review

This is the time of year when many people reflect about the year that is coming to an end. So as I was thinking about a topic for my final blog entry of 2017, I thought I’d compile an inventory of the breweries I visited during the last twelve months.

During 2017, I visited forty-six breweries. That’s an average of a different brewery every 7.9 days. Twenty-two were in Ohio, a further twelve  were inside the United States (but outside Ohio), and twelve were outside of the United States. Outside of Ohio, I visited breweries in Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, and Texas, while outside of the United States I visited breweries in Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Of the forty-six breweries, I had visited five before this year (indicated in italics in the list below). So forty-one of the breweries were first-time visits. The year also included a visit to one non-craft brewery – Carlsberg, in Copenhagen, Denmark. I also paid my first visit to a former craft brewery (10 Barrel Brewpub in Denver, CO), that is now owned by AB InBev. Here is a list of breweries visited:

Ohio Breweries (22)

  • Bad Tom Smith Brewing, Cincinnati, OH
  • Black Cloister Brewing Company, Toledo, OH
  • Black Frog Brewery, Holland, OH
  • Bowling Green Beer Works, Bowling Green, OH
  • Catawba Island Brewing Company, Port Clinton, OH
  • Double Wing Brewing Company, Madison, OH
  • Earnest Brew Works, Toledo, OH
  • Figleaf Brewing Company, Middletown, OH
  • Forest City Brewery, Cleveland, OH
  • GOTL Brewing Company, Geneva-on-the-Lake, OH
  • Granite City Brewery, Maumee, OH
  • Listermann Brewing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • MadTree Brewing, Cincinnati, OH
  • Market Garden Brewery, Cleveland, OH
  • Maumee Bay Brewing Company, Toledo, OH
  • Moerlein Lager House, Cincinnati, OH
  • Nano Brew, Cleveland, OH
  • Rhinegeist Brewery, CincinnatI, OH
  • Rivertown Brewery, Monroe, OH
  • Streetside Brewery, Cincinnati, OH
  • Taft’s Ale House, Cincinnati, OH
  • Upside Brewing, Sylvania, OH
  • Woodburn Brewery, Cincinnati, OH

US Non-Ohio Breweries (12)

  • 10 Barrel Brewing Company, Denver, CO
  • Blue Heron Brewing Company, Espanola, NM
  • Chili Line Brewery, Santa Fe, NM
  • Denton County Brewing Company, Denton, TX
  • Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, CO
  • Hofbrauhaus, Covington, KY
  • Jagged Mountain Brewery, Denver, CO
  • Our Mutual Friend Brewing Company, Denver, CO
  • Ratio Beerworks, Denver, CO
  • Second Street Brewery, Santa Fe, NM
  • Snowbelt Brewing Company, Gaylord, MI
  • Woods Boss Brewing Company, Denver, CO

Non-US Breweries (12)

  • A-Frame Brewing, Squamish, Canada
  • Backcountry Brewing, Squamish, Canada
  • Brouwerij Martinus, Groningen, Netherlands
  • Brouwerij de Prael, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Carlsberg, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • De Bekeerde Suster, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Howe Sound Brewing Company, Squamish, Canada
  • Mikkeller Baghaven, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Norrebro Bryghus, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Steamworks Brewing Company, Vancouver, Canada
  • Strathcona Beer Company, Vancouver, Canada
  • Warpigs, Copenhagen, Denmark

I look forward to 2018. I am not sure how many breweries I will visit in the coming year. Within the United States, I already have plans to visit Austin, TX, Cincinnati, OH, Denton, TX, Portland, OR, and San Antonio, TX. Outside of the US, trips are already planned to Canada, India, Italy (two trips), Ireland, Portugal, and Qatar. A visit to Austria is also a possibility. I am sure the list of my travel destinations will grow. I hope these travels take me to lots of new breweries. Hopefully, there will also be some new breweries to visit closer to home, including Toledo’s new Patron Saints Brewery, which should be open soon.

So I decided to finish the year with one photograph of each of the breweries I visited during 2017. I hope you enjoy them.


MadTree Brewing, Cincinnati, OH
Norrebro Bryghus, Copenhagen, Denmark
Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, CO
Bowling Green Beer Works, Bowling Green, OH
Black Cloister Brewing Company, Toledo, OH
Howe Sound Brewing Company, Squamish, Canada
Woodburn Brewery, Cincinnati, OH
Brouwerij Martinus, Groningen, Netherlands
Our Mutual Friend Brewing, Denver, CO
Earnest Brew Works, Toledo, OH
10 Barrel Brewing Company, Denver, CO
Nano Brew, Cleveland, OH
Double Wing Brewing Company, Madison, OH
Streetside Brewery, Cincinnati, OH
Carlsberg, Copenhagen, Denmark
Steamworks Brewing Company, Vancouver, Canada
Rhinegeist Brewery, Cincinnati, OH
Black Frog Brewery, Holland, OH
Woods Boss Brewing Company, Denver, CO
Snowbelt Brewing Company, Gaylord, MI
Brouwerij De Prael, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Mikkeller Baghaven, Copenhagen, Denmark
Chili Line Brewing Company, Santa Fe, NM
Backcountry Brewing, Squamish, Canada
De Bekeerde Suster, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Catawba Island Brewing Company, Port Clinton, OH
Moerlein Lager House, Cincinnati, OH
Warpigs, Copenhagen, Denmark
Market Garden Brewery, Cleveland, OH
Jagged Mountain Brewery, Denver, CO
FigLeaf Brewing Company, Middletown, OH
A-Frame Brewing Company, Squamish, Canada
Taft’s Ale House, Cincinnati, OH
Forest City Brewery, Cleveland, OH
Denton County Brewing Company, Denton, TX
Rivertown Brewery, Monroe, OH
Maumee Bay Brewing Company, Toledo, OH
Upside Brewing, Sylvania, OH
Hofbrauhause, Covington, KY
Ratio Beerworks, Denver, CO
Granite City Brewery, Maumee, OH
GOTL Brewing Company, Geneva-on-the-Lake, OH
Blue Heron Brewing Company, Espanola, NM
Listermann Brewing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio
Second Street Brewery, Santa Fe, NM
Strathcona Beer Company. Vancouver, Canada
Bad Tom Smith Brewing, Cincinnati, OH

Happy New Year Everyone!






Craft Beer in The Mile High City

I just  returned from two days in Denver, CO. I was there conducting site visits at three hotels. One of the hotels will host the 2021 North American Meetings of the Regional Science Association International (RSAI). As Executive Director of the North American Regional Science Council (one of the constituent bodies that operate under the umbrella of RSAI), one of my tasks is to contract with a hotel to host our annual meeting. Such is the demand for hotel meeting space that contracts have to be signed four to five years in advance of the actual meetings taking place.

One of Denver’s nicknames is The Mile High City. As it happens, it really is a mile high. The thirteenth step on the west side of the State Capitol Building is exactly 5,280 feet (one mile) above seal level. Denver is a craft beer drinker’s heaven. The Denver Brewery Guide lists fifty-nine breweries in the city. With so many breweries, some have dubbed the city as “the Napa Valley of Beer”. I am sure that a few of Denver’s peers (e.g., San Diego, CA and Portland, OR) may dispute that moniker. Indeed, when it comes to the number of microbreweries per 100,000 inhabitants, Denver only ranks seventh in the country.

A map of breweries in central Denver (Source:
Denver ranks seventh in the number of microbreweries per 100,000 inhabitants

Denver’s River North (RiNo) neighborhood has emerged as a favorite destination for many craft beer lovers, residents and visitors alike.  Just north of downtown Denver, RiNo is home to over ten craft breweries. RiNo is an example of what is known as a “brewery district” – an area of a city where you find a number of breweries in close geographic proximity to each other. A recent article in the Denver Post did a nice job capturing the essence of such districts:

“The emergence of Denver’s craft brewing district means  drinkers can sample several tap rooms, including on foot or by bike. That is a great advantage for breweries hoping to lure new customers, but it also means there is no room to hide if the beer doesn’t measure up. Breweries need to be on their game because customers have options.”

On my first evening in Denver, I visited three breweries that were within a reasonably short walk of my hotel – Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery, Great Divide Brewing Company, and Woods Boss Brewing Company. On my second evening, I walked the mile to the start of

I visited three breweries on my first evening in Denver
I enjoyed a raspberry crush sour ale at Denver’s 10 Barrel

the River North Brewery District. Technically, it is called the River North Art District. When I arrived there, I used Facebook to check into the “River North Brewery District”. I found that no such designation existed, so I created it. My first stop was 10 Barrel Brewpub. 10 Barrel is one of the ten former craft breweries that are now owned by AB InBev. The Denver brewpub is part of a larger 10 Barrel empire. The original 10 Barrel started as a production brewery in Bend, OR in 2006. In 2010, the company opened a brewpub in Bend. This was followed by the opening of brewpubs in Boise, ID (2013), Portland, OR (2015), Denver, CO (2016), and San Diego, CA (2017). In 2014, 10 Barrel was purchased by AB InBev. It was the third American craft brewery that the Belgian-based conglomerate had purchased (it already had acquired Goose Island Beer Company and  Blue Point Brewing). This was my first visit to a former craft brewery that is now owned by one of the large multinational brewers. I had previously visited Lagunitas Brewing Company in Chicago, but that was before it was acquired by Heineken. I have to say I was impressed with 10 Barrel’s Denver brewpub. The staff were friendly and the honey orange porter and the raspberry crush sour were both excellent.

10 Barrel Brewing in Denver
My Rented World Session IPA at Ratio Beerworks

After 10 Barrel, I took the five minute walk to Our Mutual Friend (OMF) Brewing Company. Opened in December, 2012 OMF has a much cozier feel than the larger and more spacious 10 Barrel. By the time I arrived at OMF I was in the mood for something light, so I had their Camisado Cream Ale. From OMF, it was a short 450 feet to my next stop, Ratio Beerworks.  Ratio was opened in February 2015. At Ratio, I opted for their Rented World Session IPA. It was a nice way to finish off the evening.

I wish that I had more time to spend in the River North neighborhood, but I had to get back to my hotel. There were so many other breweries within a short walk of Ratio. According to Google Maps, Epic Brewing Company was four minutes away on foot, while Beryl’s Beer Co. was a seven minute walk. I had read quite a bit about the River North neighborhood, and had even used it as an example of a brewery district in a paper to be published in The Professional Geographer in February, 2018. Reading about it is one thing. But to actually go there, see the neighborhood, and experience some of the breweries that I had read about was a lot of fun.

With so many breweries, and neighborhoods like River North, it is no surprise that Denver, like a number of other cities across the United States, is promoting its craft breweries to tourists. The city’s official tourist website,, has copious amounts of information about the Denver’s brewery scene. This includes a listing of all the breweries in the city, as well as information on brewery tours, beer-focused walking tours, beer festivals and other beer-related events, and Denver’s beer  history. Denver is also the home of the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Held every September, the GABF brings 60,000 beer lovers from all over the world to the Mile High City.

Guided tours of the River North neighborhood, such as this one, are available

I plan to be back in Denver in 2021, to attend the North American Meetings of the Regional Science Association International. I look forward to going back to River North and spending more time there, and visiting the breweries that I was unable to visit this time around. It will also be interesting to see if additional breweries have opened in the neighborhood.

Further Reading:

Nilsson, Isabelle, Neil Reid, and Matthew Lehnert. 2018. Geographic patterns of craft breweries at the intra-metropolitan scale, The Professional Geographer, Volume 70, Issue 1, pp. 114-225.

Au Canada

I just returned from a week long trip to Canada. The main purpose of my visit was the attend the 64th North American Meetings of the Regional Science Association International (RSAI), which this year were held in Vancouver, BC. As Executive Director of the North American Regional Science Council (NARSC), the five days in Vancouver were very busy for me. Between numerous business meetings, research meetings, receptions, lunches, and dinners, I did not have many free moments. I did manage, however, to visit a couple of craft breweries in Vancouver – Steamworks Brewpub in the city’s historic Gastown neighborhood and Strathcona Beer Company in the city’s Downtown Eastside – a neighborhood notorious, according to Wikipedia, for “its levels of drug use, poverty, mental illness, sex work, homelessness, and crime.” One of my local friends agreed with this assessment of the neighborhood, so we did take a cab, rather than walk, to the brewery.

Beautiful Squamish, British Columbia

After the conference, rather than returning straight home, I headed north to the town of Squamish, for a few days. Squamish is about an hour drive from downtown Vancouver. My friend and colleague Gordon Mulligan lives in Squamish . I have known Gordon since 1986, when I was in the doctoral program at Arizona State University in Tempe. Gordon was a faculty member in the Department of Geography and Regional Development at the University of Arizona (U of A)  in Tucson. Once a year, Geographers from across Arizona came together to update each other on what was going on in their respective departments, as well to as to have some fun. Gordon and I hit it off pretty much immediately. We were both economic geographers and both enjoyed drinking beer. It may not seem much upon which to form a lifelong friendship, but here we are twenty-nine years later, still hanging out together. Gordon retired from the U of A in 2006. He then moved back to Squamish. I say “moved back” because he grew up in and around Squamish during the 1950s.

Early 20th centrury hop farm barn (Photo credit: Squamish Public Library)

British Columbia has an interesting brewing history; a history that includes the growing of hops. The first hops were grown in the province in the 1860s. At that time, BC brewers imported their hops from the United States. Two Victoria brewers, Arthur Bunster and Alfred Elliot, decided they would like to use some locally-grown hops. So they started to offer local farmers generous prizes if they were able to grow crops on a commercial scale. Hop production started in the Squamish Valley in 1890. It quickly grew to become one of the area’s major industries.  At its peak, there were ten hop farms in the region with The Squamish Valley Hop Company being the most prominent. Chinese and First Nation laborers provided the workforce for these late-nineteenth century hop farms, The hops were used by local breweries, while also being exported to the United States and the United Kingdom. By 1912, hop production in the Squamish Valley had ceased. The recession of 1910-12 and the start of World War I, combined to put an end to the area’s hop industry.

Howe Sound Brewing Company, one of three craft breweries in Squamish
Gordon and I got an impromptu tour of A-Frame Brewing Company

Today, however, the hops industry is making a comeback in Squamish. In 2013, Mike Holmes founded the Squamish Valley Hop Company. In 2016, Holmes harvested Squamish’s first hops in more than one hundred years. As in the United States, where hop production is experiencing a resurgence in a number of states, craft breweries are driving the demand for locally-grown hops. In addition to a nascent hop industry, Squamish is home to three craft breweries – A-Frame Brewing Company, Backcountry Brewing, and Howe Sound Brewing Company. Gordon and I visited all three when I was there. Squamish has a population of ~19,000, so three craft breweries is quite an impressive number. Squamish is a growing community and it anticipates more growth in the future. Its relatively affordable housing is increasingly popular with Vancouverites, who are willing to make the daily commute. Squamish is also experiencing a tourist boom, with mountain biking, hiking, skiing, and snowmobiling all popular activities. All of this bodes well for current and future breweries in the town. At the same time, there are those in Canada who are asking whether the craft beer bubble is about to burst.

The growing popularity of craft beer in Squamish, not surprisingly, mirrors what is happening elsewhere in both British Columbia and Canada. In 2016, there were 775 breweries in Canada, an increase from the 2015 total of 644. Close to half (49%) of the breweries in British Columbia are under three years old. Two of Squamish’s three breweries, A-Frame and Backcountry, were established in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Of course, large multinational brewers dominate the Canadian beer market.  Molson Coors Brewing Company have a 31.7% share, while AB InBev’s share of the market stands at 26.8%. There is a definite shift towards craft beer, however.  By 2014, for example, craft beer had captured eighteen percent of the British Columbia beer market.

It was a great two days in Squamish – spending time with an old friend and exploring Squamish’s craft breweries. As I noted in a previous blog entry, craft breweries are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Despite this ubiquity, no two are the same. They are all so very different. Each one has its own unique space, ambience, and brews. As I have said so often before, it is a great time to be a beer drinker.

Certified Independent

The beautiful Circuit of the Americas, where the US F1 Grand Prix is held
Jim Clark, one of my Formula 1 heros

I was in Texas last month. I went there for the U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix. This was my fourth time in Austin since 2010, each time to attend the U.S. F1 GP at Circuit of the Americas, a race track custom-built for the event. This year, as last year, I flew into Dallas. My friend Mike lives in Dallas. I spent the day with Mike, stayed overnight at his place, and he and I drove the four hours to Austin the next day. In Austin, we stayed with another friend, Bill. The U.S. GP is a three-day affair, starting with practice on the Thursday and culminating with the race on Sunday afternoon. I have Continue reading Certified Independent

The Brotherhood of Beer

As a beer drinker I have always been impressed by the friendliness of everyone associated with the craft brewing industry. I have interviewed, formally and informally, a number of brewers over the years and have found them to be always willing to share their views on the industry in general and their brewery in particular. My own Continue reading The Brotherhood of Beer

Craft Beer in Italy

I was in Italy a few weeks ago. As with many of my trips these days, I went there to talk about beer. My first talk was to doctoral students in the Urban Studies and Regional Science program at the Gran Sasso Science Institute in L’Aquila. The seminar I taught provided a broad overview of the growth of craft beer in the United States, Continue reading Craft Beer in Italy

Beer Tourism

Last week I was in Manchester, VT. I had been invited there by Paul Connor, who is Director of Planning and Zoning for the City of South Burlington. Paul had organized a panel discussion at the Fall Conference of the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association. The panel was titled “Brewing Up A Continue reading Beer Tourism

Seeking Local Beer

I have just returned from twelve days in the Netherlands. While there, I spent time in three different places – Amsterdam, Groningen, and Dalfsen. In many respects these three places could not be more different. Amsterdam is the country’s vibrant and bustling capital
city (although not the seat of the Dutch government interestingly), Continue reading Seeking Local Beer