The number of craft breweries in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties grew by more than 560 percent between 2012 and 2016.
There were just three breweries in the two counties in 2012, but there were 17 by the end of 2016, the most recent data available, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Census Bureau examined the exploding craft brewery business as part of a series of reports during Manufacturing Week, which continues through Oct. 5.
The data is an intriguing peek into the operations of small and independent businesses that have captured the imagination — and the wallets — of a large customer segment.
The trend toward smaller breweries is largely demand-driven, Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, told the Census Bureau. Shifting consumer tastes and support of local businesses are behind the gains in breweries, as they are responsible for heightened interest in specialty coffees, distilleries and wineries, Watson said.
In Pinellas County, the number of breweries grew from one in 2012 to eight in 2016, and those eight collectively employed 53 workers, or an average of just under seven employees each. The total annual payroll of employees was $1.45 million and the average payroll per employee was $27,340.
There were two breweries in Hillsborough County in 2012. That increased to nine breweries by 2016. They collectively employed 196 workers, an average of about 22 workers each. Their total annual payroll of employees was $12.3 million and the average payroll per employee was $62,791.
Florida had a total of 90 breweries in 2016, up from 19 in 2012, and a combined total of 1,961 brewery employees, with an annual payroll per employee of $50,477 per year, the Census report said.
Nationally, the total number of breweries skyrocketed from 880 to 2,802 between 2012 and 2016, and they collectively employed more than 55,000 workers with a total annual payroll of $2.6 billion.
The data only includes businesses classified as “breweries.” Businesses that brew their own beer (restaurants and brew pubs) but are classified in other industries are excluded from these statistics. If these other businesses had been included, the number and growth over the last five years would be even greater, the Census Bureau said.
The report also includes data to help breweries better understand their potential customers.
The average consumer expenditure per household on alcoholic beverages in Pinellas County in 2017 was $484.91, including $82.49 on beer consumed away from home, and $44.65 on wine consumed away from home.
In Hillsborough County, average consumer expenditure per household on alcoholic beverages was $531.91 in 2017, with $92.47 spent on beer consumed away from home, and $47.09 spent on wine consumed away from home.