Forget Apples, Find Out Why the Washington Beer and Wine Industry is Growing by Leaps and Bounds
In recent years, craft brewers, microbreweries, wineries and tasting rooms have been popping up all over the US, especially in Washington state, where much of not just the nation’s but the world’s raw ingredients come from. Here are six things you might not have known about the beer and wine industry in Washington State.
6 Washington Beer and Wine Industry Statistics that May Surprise You
#1 – Washington is the nation’s largest producer of hops, a staple ingredient in many beers.
The Yakima Valley, located in central-south Washington State alone is home to over 75 percent of the U.S. hop acreage and accounts for 77 percent of U.S. hop production. In fact, the Pacific Northwest states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho produce 98% of all hops grown in the U.S. Here’s how this breaks down by hop acreage:
- Washington State – 32,205 acres
- Oregon – 6,807 acres
- Idaho – 4,975 acres
- Other states combined – 1,244 acres
- Canada – 257 acres
Number one in the world sometimes, too. U.S. hop production surpassed that of Germany in 2015 for the third time in 10 years when the Pacific Northwest produced 42 percent of the hops grown globally compared to Germany’s 33 percent.
The reason hop crops thrive in Washington state is its climate. Nearly 100 percent of hop production occurs between the 33rd and 55th parallels worldwide where hop crops enjoy long summer day-length, hot summers and cold winters.
#2 – Washington is the nation’s second largest premium wine producer in the U.S.
Most people know that California is the top wine producer in the U.S., but you might not know that Washington State comes in at number 2. According to the Washington State Wine Commission, the state is home to:
- More than 900 wineries
- More than 350 grape growers
- More than 50,000 acres of wine grape crops
- More than 40 varietals (different types of grapes)
- More than 16 million cases of wine produced annually
Like the hops needed for beer, grape crops tend to thrive in central and eastern Washington climate, thanks to plentiful irrigation, a sunny, hot, dry growing season, and temperatures which can shift as much as 40 degrees in 24 hours (day to night) which helps preserve acidity. In fact, one of the reasons the Washington beer and wine industry is thriving here is because its growing regions have an hour more sunlight each day on average than California’s prime growing region during summer months.
#3 – Washington’s beer industry is third in the nation.
The beer industry contributed more than $1 billion to Washington State’s economy in 2012, second only to Oregon and California in the U.S. As of 2015, Crosscut.com notes there were 274 breweries in Washington State, including 78 in Seattle alone, making it the number one city for breweries in the world, with more breweries than any other city. As of today, Washingtonbeer.com lists more than 350 breweries in Washington State, including 105 in Seattle and King County.
#4 – Washington’s Wine Industry has a $4.8 Billion Impact
As of 2013, the economic impact of the Washington wine industry was nearly five billion dollars, according to a Washington State Wine study. Up from $3.5 billion in 2009, the industry enjoyed a healthy growth rate 39 percent, or 8.5 percent per year. Washington wineries grew at an even faster 8.7 percent annually, and sold $1.5 billion in 2013, up from $1.1 billion in 2009.
Industry growth means jobs. In 2009 the Washington wine industry accounted for more than 18k jobs; in 2013 that number was nearly 26k. Nor is industry growth expected to slow. The Washington State Wine Commission’s 2016 annual report projects that the industry will continue to grow from 5-9 percent annually through 2019.
#5 – Washington is number five on Thrill List’s ranking of the best beers in all 50 states.
While you might think of states like Wisconsin as the powerhouse of the beer industry in the U.S., is simply isn’t so. Noting that Washington has long been a “formidable” state when it comes to beer, Thrillist.com’s list of states as ranked by the best beers has Washington in the number 5 spot. Beating Washington out for top honors were Michigan at number four, Colorado at number three, California in the two-spot and Oregon at number one on the list.
#6 – Grapes come in number six on the list of Washington crops.
Yes, apples may be number one, but thanks to Washington State’s growing wine industry, grapes came in at number six on the state’s Top 10 Commodities in 2013, and hops came in at number eight:
- $2.8 billion – Apples
- $1.01 billion – Wheat
- $792 million – Potatoes
- $675 million – Hay
- $385 million – Sweet Cherries
- $278 million – Grapes
- $225 million – Pears
- $202 million – Hops
GoTasteWine.com has a list of more than 850 Washington wineries sortable by Winery Name, AVA (American Viticultural Area or designated wine grape-growing region, of which Washington State now has 14), or City, so that you can plot your tasting course.
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