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Beer drinkers do their part for Washington’s economy

Washington’s craft beer industry began in the 1980s with Redhook and Pyramid and now reflects the national growth trend, according to the Washington Beer Commission's economic impact study released in 2019 for 2017.
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Washington’s craft beer industry began in the 1980s with Redhook and Pyramid and now reflects the national growth trend, according to the Washington Beer Commission's economic impact study released in 2019 for 2017.

Bellingham’s craft beer industry has the city ranked among the top 20 in not one, but two national lists released this week.

Not only do we have the 17th-highest brewery-to-population ratio in the United States, Bellingham ranked as the 12th-best market nationally to open more breweries.

C+R Research, a market-based research company based out of Illinois, on Monday, June 24, released its ranking of 500 cities with the most breweries per 50,000 people. Bellingham checked in at No. 17 with seven breweries per 50,000 people — approximately one per every 7,000 people in town.

Topping the list was Portland, Maine, which has a hang-over-educing 18 breweries per 50,000 people. Asheville, N.C., was right behind with 17, followed by Bend, Oregon, at 16. Portland, Oregon, was No. 8 with nine breweries per 50,000.

Bellingham was tops in Washington state, though Yakima (No. 23) also made the top 25.

The ranking also listed the “most popular” brewery in each market, based on Google search data. For the record, Wander Brewing — the 2018 Washington Large Brewery of the Year — was Bellingham’s most searched brewery.

Despite its relatively high number of breweries already in business, a second study released Tuesday, June 25, by Bid-On-Equipment.com, an Illinois company that focuses on the direct sale of used packaging and processing machinery, ranked Bellingham the 12th-best city nationwide to start a brewery.

Sommerville, Massachusetts, was ranked the nation’s top city to start a brewery, followed by Madison, Wisconsin, and Seattle, while Portland, Oregon, was No. 7.

Washington state was well represented in this list, with five cities joining Seattle and Bellingham in the top 27: Vancouver (No. 15), Bellevue (No. 17), Tacoma (No. 21), Spokane (No. 25) and Yakima (No. 27).

The ranking weighed “business environment” and “business costs” equally in scoring each city. Business environment included the percent of the population that was old enough to drink, the number of breweries per 50,000, if state laws allow breweries to self distribute and the median income of the community, while business costs rated the state excise tax per barrel of beer and the brewery license cost.

In Bellingham, 74% of the population is 21 or older, according to the ranking, which is a little on the low end compared to other top cities, but the $4.78 state excise tax was middle of the pack and the $100 brewery licensing cost was on the low end of the communities ranked.

Though Bellingham lost one brewery when Illuminati Brewing served its last beer on June 15, Stemma Brewing Company is preparing to open its doors at 2039 Moore St. According to Stemma’s website, its grand opening is set for Saturday, June 29.

And another brewery is in the works for the Sunnyland neighborhood, with Other Wonders Beer scheduled to open next spring.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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