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How much does St. Louis love craft breweries? Since 2008, the number here has quadrupled.

How much does St. Louis love craft breweries? Since 2008, the number here has quadrupled.

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The growth of the craft brewery industry in St. Louis, both in terms of number of operating craft breweries and the amount of beer it produces, has outpaced the national average over the last decade.

Since 2008, the same year St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch was sold to Belgium’s InBev for $52 billion, the number of craft breweries operating in St. Louis has more than quadrupled from 12 to 52. Production from those breweries grew even more quickly during that time, from nearly 31,000 barrels annually to more than 143,000, a 365 percent increase.

Nationwide, the number of operating craft breweries has grown about as quickly as here in St. Louis, from 1,521 a decade ago to 6,655 today. Production, however, grew less than 200 percent, to 25.4 million barrels from 8.5 million barrels.

The data come from a new report from real estate firm CBRE, which analyzed the effect the craft brewing industry has on the local real estate market. For instance, St. Louis’ craft breweries cumulatively occupy more than 637,500 square feet of industrial and retail space with the average brewery totaling about 12,000 square feet in size.

“Just the sheer amount of space that these breweries occupy was something I wasn’t expecting,” said Ryan Marshall, one of two CBRE researchers who authored the report. “Some of the brewers around town that I would consider small shops actually occupy some big spaces.”

That may be due to the fact that tasting rooms for many brewers represent a small fraction of the real estate they occupy, while large fermenting tanks or packaging lines require larger spaces back of house.

Fifty-eight percent of craft beermakers lease their space from landlords. And more than half of the metro area’s breweries are situated in the city of St. Louis’ boundaries.

Craft beer has grown in popularity in nearly every major American city. But perhaps not surprisingly, the craft boom in St. Louis is more pronounced after the A-B InBev tie-up.

In Missouri, the home state for Anheuser-Busch for more than 150 years before it was acquired, A-B InBev recently saw its market share slip below 60 percent for the first time in more than a century.

That downward trend has left open the door for craft beermakers to gain customers, which in turn has provided confidence to other brewers looking to open their own facilities.

In the decade prior to the A-B InBev deal, just five breweries opened in the St. Louis area, according to data from the Brewers Association. In the 10 years after the deal, 46 new breweries have opened.

“The craft guys aren’t competing directly against the macro brewers like A-B, but I do think that losing some of those jobs or that production spurred some of these smaller shops to move what might have been a homebrewing operation into more of a commercial or retail setting and try to claim a piece of that pie,” Marshall said.

More breweries are on the way, with the CBRE report identifying at least five that could be open locally before the end of the year.

Michael Sweeney, operations manager at 2nd Shift Brewing and founder of St. Louis Craft Beer Week, said the market was actually underserved.

“You go to towns on the west coast that are the same size of St. Louis and there are 60 or 70 breweries there, so the opportunity for others is there,” he said. “The question is how these new breweries will come about. If they’re looking to be more of a production brewery, that may be a bit more of a tougher road to hoe because it’s hard to find tap space or shelf space here. But if they’re looking to be more of the brewpub model, where they don’t have to find a distributor and are selling out of a tap room, that seems to be what most breweries are doing lately.”

Aptly named, 2nd Shift was the second-fastest-growing craft brewery in the St. Louis region last year, going to 1,920 barrels of beer in 2017 from 1,000 barrels produced in 2016. The brewery, situated at 1601 Sublette Avenue in The Hill neighborhood, is on track to produce 3,500 barrels this year. Maplewood’s Side Project was the fastest-growing brewery, according to data from the Brewers Association.

“It helps that we’re still kind of small,” Sweeney said. “People love small, and they love trying new beer.”

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