Posted by: Josh Lehner | May 19, 2016

Willamette Valley Beer Production

It’s American Craft Beer week right now so I thought I’d show a few graphs of beer production in the Willamette Valley. The data comes from OLCC reports which show only beer produced and sold in Oregon. Out-of-state sales/distributions from Oregon breweries are excluded. This has an impact on the largest brewery trends, but hardly any for the majority of the state’s breweries.

Probably the biggest trend that stands out is that the growth in recent years is entirely due to the newer start-ups. At some point a brewery effectively saturates the local market and it is hard to increase sales and distribution within the state simply because a given brewery’s product is in every store and on tap in nearly every bar or restaurant. This is most easily seen in the state’s legacy breweries like a Deschutes or a Widmer. Outside of, maybe, the specialty stores and taprooms, when was the last time you went into an eating or drinking establishment and didn’t see Deschutes or Widmer on tap? While considerably younger, this same situation applies to Ninkasi as well. After years and years of nearly exponential growth, Oregon production and sales for Ninkasi have slowed.

OK. Onto the graphs. Let’s first start with the biggest breweries in the Willamette Valley. One thing to note here is the scale used in the graph. Hop Valley produces as much beer for Oregon sales as every other brewery in the Valley combined, other than Ninkasi of course. Ninkasi itself is more than 50 percent larger than Hop Valley. So these breweries dominate regional beer production (and are among the biggest/most successful in the state as well).


The second graph shows the other Eugene or Lane County breweries. Here the growth due to the recent start-ups is very apparent.


Heading north, Mid-Valley beer production shows a more steady increase over the past decade. A new brewery opens about every 1-2 years and drives regional production and sales higher.


Further north, the Salem regional production is shown below. There are a few notes about the Salem data. First, Gilgamesh is the largest Willamette Valley brewery outside of those first three Eugene ones, and continues to grow and expand. Second, Seven Brides disappeared in the data over the past year. As far as I can tell this is a data issue only, but does skew/mislead the overall regional trends.


As slow progress continues to be made on our office’s start-up brewery report, additional regional graphs like this will follow in the coming months. The big picture trends are evident across the state. Start-ups are driving the growth. Larger breweries are growing their sales into other states and even internationally. As such, brewing is increasingly a traded-sector industry with a wide geographic footprint within the state. While Bend, Eugene and Portland may be best-known for their breweries, every region of the state has award-winning breweries and growing production and sales.

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