NJ isn’t the craft beer capital of the U.S., but maybe someday
No other state has seen more growth in its craft beer scene since 2015 than the state of New Jersey.
But statistics suggest New Jersey's craft brew industry still has plenty of room to grow.
The Garden State ranks No. 1, along with Kentucky, for a 43 percent jump in the number of breweries over the past few years, according to a study released by C+R Research.
Using data from the Brewers Association, as well as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the study finds New Jersey's craft brewery count increased from 51 in 2015 to 90 in 2017.
"We had large growth because we had so far to go," said Alexis Degan, executive director of the New Jersey Brewers Association.
The current count by New Jersey Craft Beer is 98 breweries, as well as 18 brew pubs.
Legislation signed in 2012 gave New Jersey breweries the green light to serve their products on site to customers as long as those customers received some type of tour of the facility. With the law, customers could also purchase growlers or cans of a brewery's products for consumption off the property.
"I think that New Jersey's laws came at a great time when both the craft beer industry in the nation and in the state were in high demand," Degan said. "Craft breweries with tasting rooms are part of a larger movement to be closer to what you're consuming."
Despite New Jersey's No. 1 ranking, the C+R study shows the Garden State is still on the low end for breweries per capita, as well as economic impact.
In New Jersey. the study finds, there are 1.3 breweries for every 100,000 residents of legal age. Deemed by the study as the craft beer capital of the U.S., Vermont is home to 11.5 breweries per capita. New York's per-capita rate is 2.2, Pennsylvania's is 2.9.
And craft beer's impact on New Jersey's economy isn't so impressive, compared to most other states. The report puts New Jersey's economic impact at $251 per capita, compared to $764 in Colorado and $681 in Vermont.
"Our consumption is outpacing regulation, so we'll still be in that bottom economic-impact-per-capita until we overcome those hurdles," Degan said.
Degan said advocates for the craft beer industry are working with legislators to get more tourism advertisement geared toward the state's alcohol producers. And, unlike neighboring states, New Jersey currently prohibits craft producers from selling the products of other alcohol producers in the state.
A winery in New Jersey, for example, can't sell a Jersey-made craft brew.
"It opens up new avenues for sales that don't currently exist in our state, but that we see successful in other states," Degan said.