According to researchers, Washington state was the first in the country to legalize brewpubs in 1982 (Kenneth G. Elzinga, Carol Horton Tremblay and Victor Tremblay of Oregon State University). Since then, craft brewing has continued to grow and diversify the state’s economy. The Washington Brewers Guild provides a variety of statistics to substantiate the growing importance of this sector: licensed craft breweries in the state now total 315 (the second highest in the country); production increased 63% between 2011 and 2014; craft brewing generated over $1.6 billion in direct economic impact for Washington State in 2014; Washington craft breweries employed 14,782 full-time employees with an average wage of over $44,000.
The supply chain, including farming interests, also warrants attention. According to Washington State University, over 75 percent of the nation’s hops are grown in Washington. The craft movement offers an opportunity for smaller farms to grow specialty hops and grains to meet the demands of the sector. Smaller farms, potentially cooperating and pooling resources, could occupy a viable niche and fill a growing need.