Why I want to start a brewery in Monterey—Part 3 of 3: The market is ready for a progressive craft brewery

There are many reasons I want to start a brewery in Monterey. You don’t have to look long to find an array of statistics about the craft beer industry’s seeming invincibility; the economics of craft beer is exhilarating. There is also a great sense of community surrounding the product and the industry. Since living in the Monterey Peninsula area for the past 8 years, I have grown to love it and I’d like to stick around. I am also in a transitional phase of my life, and I think I can find a niche in the craft beer industry. In this last post of the series, I’m going to explain why Monterey is more than ready for a progressive craft brewery.

Photograph of sailing ships.

[NOTE: One purpose behind this series is to help focus my vision about the brewery that I want to create. A few months ago, all of my partners left the project. Through that, I learned that a a clear vision is crucially important to help ensure that my partners and I are trying to do the same thing.]

Overall craft beer market is booming

The craft beer market is growing across the nation. Contrary to the overall economic recession, craft beer sales doubled between 2007 and 2012, and are expected to triple by 2017. In the past 13 years, food and beverage jobs in the U.S. increased 25 percent compared to 4 percent for total U.S. employment. In 2012, 409 microbreweries and brewpubs opened, while just 43 closed. While the overall beer market in U.S. increased by 1 percent in 2012, craft beer increased 15 percent by volume. Craft beer sales share in 2012 was 6.5 percent by volume, but 10 percent by dollars.

The year 2013 was even more pleasing. Even as overall beer sales in the U.S. fell by 1.9 percent, craft beer grew 18 percent by volume and 20 percent by dollars. 413 breweries opened in 2013. Bart Watson, staff economist with Brewers Association, says, “With this stellar year, craft has now averaged 10.9 percent growth over the last decade.” Brewers Association is a great resource for statistics about craft beer. Check out their national craft beer data here.

But everybody knows that. Let’s talk about Monterey.

Monterey craft beer market is trying to catch up

Like the rest of the nation, the markets surrounding Monterey County are growing. Meanwhile, Monterey is struggling to catch up.

California leads the nation with 316 breweries, exactly double that of 2nd-place Washington. When ranked by breweries per capita, however, Vermont and Oregon vie for top states in the nation. Vermont has one brewery per 25,030 people. Oregon, widely considered to be the most mature market in the nation and which still saw craft beer grow by 11 percent in 2012, has one brewery per 27,365 people.

As an aside, Richard Florida wrote some interesting things about The Geography of Craft Beer in 2011. He says craft beer is more concentrated in highly-educated states and it correlates with higher levels of happiness. Meanwhile it is less likely in politically conservative states and religious states. I’m curious to know how it has changed since then.

Locally, there is a similar picture all around Monterey. Just to the north, Santa Cruz County markets have demonstrated a strong trend favoring local, quality brewpubs. They are expanding rapidly with 9 craft breweries, 1 per 29,154 people, and many of those are struggling to meet demand. Just to the south, San Luis Obispo County is exploding with 16 breweries, 1 per 16,852 people.

Yet, the craft brewery market in Monterey is far below saturation. Beer fans here are well under-served. Based on my own research, we have just 7 breweries, 1 per 59,294 people. This does include the 2 newest breweries in Monterey and next door Pacific Grove, where I live. These 2 have yet to prove themselves, but so far they seem to be doing well. Still, Monterey County has just half of the breweries-per-capita that Santa Cruz County has. And when you figure in the many thousands of tourists who visit the Monterey area each year, we are very crowded at the barstool.

Monterey beer fans are thirsty

Although Monterey’s beer culture is touted as growing, there leaves a lot to want. Craft beer is an experience; people travel distances to discover new beers and the people who enjoy them. Monterey County does have some minor breweries with a few brews in their catalogs, but there are just a few places to go and enjoy the beer made on site. English Ales Brewery, in Marina, has been around a while and has a dedicated, very localized following. Peter B’s Brewpub, in a downtown hotel attached to the conference center, has also been around a while and has some dedicated fans. Both of these brewpubs specialize in English style beers. Monterey Coast Brewing, in Salinas, seems to be going with Old World styles as well. Traditional beer goes well with the caucus of English themed taverns throughout the area, but it’s falling behind the contemporary trends in craft beer.

Post No Bills, in Sand City, and Cannery Row Brewing Company, in Monterey, both have a great selection of beer on tap and in bottles. (CRBC’s beer is made by the distant Firestone Walker Brewing Co.) Each has a modern atmosphere to match their modern sensibilities in beer taste. Yet, the contingent of local beer fans and homebrewers is yearning for a place to visit and enjoy modern, progressive flavors and styles made on site. We want to see it in the stores and know it’s local. We want to see it when we visit other areas and express our pride for our hometown beer.

In the short term, we have high hopes for the 2 newest breweries: Craft Artisan Ales, headquartered in Pacific Grove, but made in San Jose; and Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill, in downtown Monterey. In the meantime, the Monterey area is thirsting for high-quality, local beer. I want to bring it to them.

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    Drinks beer, quit his job, planning to start a brewery. I try to write every week about something in my life relating to my pursuit to start a brewery. Topics include: entrepreneurship, beer, leadership, and productivity.