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March 21, 2017

Mainers' thirst for craft beer continues as brewers pour $228M into economy

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Sean Sullivan, the executive director of the Maine Brewers' Guild, said the guild's 82 members account for 99% of the beer brewed in Maine — a $228 million industry in 2016.

There's no sign of Maine's craft brew business tapping out any time soon, with brewers continuing their upward momentum, having made a $227.95 million economic impact to Maine in 2016 and employing a total of 2,177, both including multiplier effects from related businesses.

An average of six craft breweries opened annually statewide over the past decade, according to a study released March 20 by the University of Maine School of Economics and the Maine Brewers' Guild.

Geographically, brewery growth has moved beyond greater Portland and is spreading further north to central Maine.

"The rural breweries are changing the way people think about craft beer," Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers' Guild, based in South Portland, told Mainebiz. The guild has 82 members that Sullivan said account for 99% of the beer brewed in Maine.

He added, "It's not just thought of as a Portland urban phenomenon, but is something that can build civic pride." Examples he pointed to are the Drumming Grouse Brewery in Bridgton that opened recently, Bear Bones Beer in Lewiston and Flight Deck Brewing on Brunswick Landing.

"These are 'destination breweries" that are pulling tourists and Mainers to places that may not have a commercial enterprise to visit," he said of the rural breweries. "These brewers are entrepreneurs that often are the first to revitalize unused Main Street spaces. Economic development officials should take note. I've even heard talk about the first brewery being created in Piscataquis County."

Sullivan was a 2016 Mainebiz Next award winner for his work both with brewers and the gift-card company Buoy Local, which was sold to Bangor Savings Bank last year.

Just this February, Mainebiz reported that Skywalkers, a Machias restaurant that opened in 2013, reinvented itself as a nano brewery, Machias River Brewing Co. And Lubec Brewing Co., a microbrewery that uses local hops and organic grains, said last December that it had more than quadrupled production from the 30 gallons when it started a little over a year ago to 120 to 240 gallons per week now.

The study noted the direct impact was $157.57 million, with a multiplier effect of $70.38 million. Total estimated revenue topped $150 million.

Total wages and salaries topped $50 million. Direct employment was 1,632 with a 545 multiplier effect in industries like distribution, legal and accounting. The guild has grown to more than 82 breweries, up 16 over 2015/2016. The average salary at a large brewery was $37,789, and $24,345 at the average small brewery, for a Maine craft brewers' industry average of $34,726.

The output of beer across Maine, at 299,459 barrels, is expected to increase by 39% in 2018 and 41% by 2020. Penobscot County breweries are forecasting the highest annual growth at 92%, with Cumberland County at 89% and York County at 80%. Waldo County came in fourth with a 79% growth estimate followed by Hancock county at 78%.

Some 60% of the breweries also operated a restaurant or served food.

The study was released a little over a week before the New England Craft Brew Summit, to be held at the University of Southern Maine on March 31.

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