San Diego Craft Brewing Industry Generates $1.2 Billion

Linda Barrett
Written by Linda Barrett

Home to more than 150 local and independent craft breweries and known as the “Capital of Craft,” San Diego’s craft brewing industry has a longstanding and significant financial influence on America’s Finest City.  Today, a new report reveals that San Diego County’s independent craft brewers produced an economic impact of approximately $1.2 billion in 2018, driving a total industry revenue of $848 million.  Cheers!

The data was assembled by the California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) Office of Business Research & Analysis, in collaboration with the San Diego Brewers Guild (SDBG), and was released today during the inaugural San Diego Craft Beer Con event which brought area brewers together for seminars and panels on topics that directly impact the local craft beer community as well as San Diego County tourism and hospitality industries.

 This third annual report measures the craft brewing sector’s wide-reaching effects through direct and indirect factors, including brewery operating costs, regional employment and its induced impact and production taxes. The survey also reports on the consistent significance of the industry’s ongoing philanthropic support of local and state-run nonprofit organizations, with 2018 donations estimated at $5 million. 

the county’s craft brewing community is a driving force for the local economy

 “When consumers consider purchasing beer, we want them to understand the importance of consciously choosing local, independent craft brands,” said Todd Colburn, secretary of the San Diego Brewers Guild, adjunct professor at CSUSM and founder of Higher Gravity Brand Advocates. “The San Diego Brewers Guild is committed to educating consumers and promoting the value of San Diego-brewed indie beer because the county’s craft brewing community is a driving force for the local economy on multiple levels. This is an industry that consistently reciprocates by giving back to our region, and we proudly emphasize the relevance of our longstanding ‘Capital of Craft’ moniker.”


  • Nationally, the craft brewing industry remains a growing industry in the United States, experiencing revenue growth over the past five years to 2018, increasing at an annualized rate of 11.8%.
  • In 2018, San Diego County craft brewers produced an economic impact of approximately $1.2 billion, and total industry revenue of $848 million. 
  • Between 2017 and 2018, the national U.S. independent craft brewing industry’s direct economic impact grew by 4.8%. 
  • Between 2017 and 2018, San Diego County experienced an economic impact increase of 6%. 
  • U.S. craft brewing 2018 barrelage output is reported at 25.9 million barrels, which represents a growth rate over 2017 of around 4%. 
  • As of January 2019, there were more than 900 craft breweries operating in California, which ranks as the state with the highest number of craft breweries in the nation. 
  • Craft brewers in California produced 3.4 million barrels of beer in 2018, making it the second-highest state in the nation for beer production.
  • As of January 2019, there were 155 independent craft brewers operating in San Diego County. Several of these breweries have tasting rooms/pubs under the same brand license, which brings the total number of brewery-operated locations to 202. 
  • In 2018, San Diego brewers reported production totals of 1.13 million barrels. This represents a 3% increase in output since 2017. 
  • Based on 2018 reported data, San Diego’s craft brewing industry provides an estimated 6,480 jobs in the region. The employment growth rate has increased by 3% since 2017. 
  • As an industry comparison, San Diego County’s sporting and athletic goods manufacturing industry had an economic impact of approximately $1.3 billion in 2018 and provided 5,813 jobs in the county. 
  • In 2017, Congress passed legislation that included a two-year provision of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which lowered the federal excise tax for breweries by 50% for a period of two years. Since its enactment, 99% of small brewers have realized a 50% reduction of their federal excise tax, freeing dollars for craft brewers to reinvest in their businesses and in the community.
  • San Diego independent craft brewers’ philanthropic contributions totaled an estimated $5 million in 2018, supporting nonprofit organizations in the county and state.
  • Released in spring 2019, the “Craft Brewer Confidence Index” survey assembled by CSUSM and San Diego Business Journal recorded a confidence index of 91, indicating an optimistic outlook for the craft brewing industry in the county over the next 12 months. 

About the author

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Native San Diegan who's been smoking weed longer than YEW!