The craft brewing expansion shows no signs of slowing in the Philadelphia region. Even as some navel-gazers predict an implosion, the region will see the opening of more than 45 new breweries by the end of 2019. That’s equal to one new place opening every 11 days.
You can see them all mapped here, from Allentown to Wilmington, plus the Jersey shore.
What does all this growth mean? Beats the hell out of me – I’m just happy there are even more places to find a good beer.
But it is worth pushing back from the bar for a moment to at least document the growth. For this brief report, I’ll focus on Philadelphia and the 8 counties directly surrounding it.
(A quick reality check: My data comes from a variety of sources, including project announcements, state license applications and the Brewers Association. Not every planned brewery is a lock, and there are always delays. Still, I expect even more new brewery announcements in the next few months. In fact, in the time it took to research and write this piece, two new projects – Dock Street in South Philly and Appalachian in West Chester – were announced. If you know of others, let me know!)
First, here’s a look at the current number of breweries in each of the counties.
The city itself has seen a quick spike in breweries, mainly in the Fishtown/Northern Liberties area. Just 7 years ago, there were only seven breweries in the entire city.
Chester County, meanwhile, has gotten a big boost from Phoenixville. The tiny town (population 17,000) is now home to 6 breweries.
That’s as many breweries in all of Delaware County – a real head-scratcher given Delco’s Irish heritage. If you think about it, there really aren’t that many great bars in Delco, either. Outside of Media and Havertown, where is the good beer in Delco?
Again, Chesco dominates the numbers here, thanks mostly to the Phoenixville phenomenon.
In Jersey, the three counties are basically in the same ballpark as the rest of the region. That’s surprising, because it wasn’t so long ago (like, 4 years) that South Jersey was a craft beer wasteland, with one brewery (Flying Fish), a couple brewpubs (thanks Iron Hill) and a bunch of crappy bars whose idea of craft was Blue Shock Stella.
The region still lags behind other craft-happy states. By comparison, the nation’s craft beer per capita leader, Vermont, has nearly 9 breweries for every 100,000 residents.
Here’s where the story turns.
Yeah, Chester County has as many breweries as Philadelphia. But they’re spread over twice as large of a geographic area. And, most of Chesco’s are grouped near Route 202; there are huge swaths of the county that are bone dry.
Philadelphia’s numbers are deceptive as well.
True, it has the highest density of breweries locally – but they’re generally huddled in up-and-coming neighborhoods (Fishtown and, increasingly, South Philly) or in established, well-to-do sections (Center City, the Northwest). There’s not a single brewery in Northeast Philly (population 528,000) and only one (Dock Street) west of the Schuylkill.
Bottom line: Geographically, there are a lot of empty spaces where a small brewery could find a niche serving a thirsty population.
So, what about the future?
By the end of 2019, Gloucester County likely will double its 4 current breweries. That’s impressive. CORRECTION: As of 6/12/18 Gloucester already had 8 breweries. It is expected to increase its brewery count by 50 percent by 2019.
But check out Montco: That 60 percent growth represents an incredible 12 new breweries (including 3 in the vicinity of Lansdale) in the next 18 months. If all of the announced projects are opened, the county will pass the city in total number of breweries.
Meanwhile, Buxco is expected to see another 7 breweries.
It’s taken a long time, but the northern suburbs are finally coming into their own. Neshaminy Creek, Broken Goblet, Free Will, Forest & Main, Sly Fox, Iron Hill – these mainstays will soon be joined by a raft of newcomers with names like Bald Birds, Ten7, Pottstown United, Geronimo, Warwick Farm and Second Sin.