2015 was officially the Year of Beer in America.
The total number of beer breweries in the U.S. reached a record level this year, according to the Brewers Association, the trade association for small breweries.
The Brewers Associated reports that the number of breweries grew to 4,144 in the country by the end of November, beating the historic high of 4,131 breweries set back in 1873. And there are only going to be more, according to BA data: at least two breweries opened every day in 2015, and at least 15 states are now home to more than 100 breweries.
This doesn't just mean more beer, but more variety for beer-drinkers everywhere. Craft beers — those intricate IPAs and other unusual, flavorful departures from regular staples like Budweiser and Coors — are gradually chewing up more and more of the beer market, jumping from 16 percent of beer sales in 2013 to 19 percent in 2014. That means small breweries produced some 22.3 million barrels of delicious, refreshing beer in 2015, one barrel for every 14 people in the country.
The numbers don't lie: America is in love with craft beer. The Brewers Association's own analysis found that "knowing that the beer is made by a small and independent brewery is important to a majority of craft drinkers in their purchase decision." Mark Hellendrung, CEO of New England favorite Narragensett, said as much when interviewed by Maxim earlier this year. "Frankly, taste matters," he said. "The people drinking Narragansett are craft beer drinkers in major metropolitan areas who want something more independent and unique when drinking this style of beer."
The trend is starting to influence bigger beer makers as well. Big breweries like Anheuser-Busch InBev, which produces Budweiser and Corona among other generic beer brands, are skittish over Americans' growing preference for craft beer. Bloomberg reports that large breweries are continuing to lose their market dominance as beer drinkers choose flavor over familiarity.
Don't worry: Bud Light and Coors won't die off anytime soon. But if you live for beer, the explosive growth of craft breweries is something to cheer. After all, more choices means more freedom, and that's what America is all about.
“This is a remarkable achievement, and it’s just the beginning,” Bart Watson, the chief economist of the Brewers Association, said in a statement. “Beer has always been a hallmark of this country and it is even more apparent today as America’s beer culture continues to expand.”
Photos by Getty Images