The 10 Best States for People Who Want to Work in a Brewery

brewing beer
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sure, you love to drink beer, but what if you could turn your enthusiasm for ales and lagers into a career? Nearly half a million people in the United States have. That’s the number of individuals who work in the craft brewing industry in some capacity, according to the Brewers Association, an organization for smaller-scale brewers. And that figure doesn’t account for people who work for beer giants like Anheuser-Busch and Coors, which employs roughly 900 people at its Golden, Colo. facility alone.

With more than 4,000 breweries scattered across the country, from tiny brewpubs to beer giants, opportunities abound for people who want a job in this growing industry. People looking to get their foot in the brewery door can do so in a couple of ways. One option is pursuing formal education, like a degree in life science or engineering or beer-specific education through a group like the American Brewers Guild, according to Tim Hawn, brewmaster at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. The other path involves pursuing an unpaid apprenticeship at a local brewery.

Where you live also matters for would-be brewers. States like California, Colorado, and Oregon have thriving beer industries, while brewery jobs are virtually non-existent in other parts of the country. Fewer than a dozen people in all of North Dakota work in a brewery, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), making it the state with the lowest concentration of beer-related employment in the U.S.

The BLS used a location quotient to determine whether the number of brewery jobs in a state was higher or lower than the national average. North Dakota, Nevada, and West Virginia all have concentrations well below the national average, while states like Colorado, Montana, and Vermont have at least three times more brewery jobs than average. California had the most people working at breweries of any state – 5,980 at 211 different establishments – but its large population meant that its relative employment in the beer industry didn’t crack the top 10.

Here are the 10 U.S. states with the highest concentration of brewery jobs.

10. Idaho

pints of beer
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Number of breweries: 27

Total brewery jobs: 319

Total brewery job concentration: 1.53 times the national average.

Idaho is a growing force in the craft beer industry. In September 2015, Boise Brewing earned a silver medal in the American-style stout category at the Great American Beer Festival for its Black Cliffs American Stout, while 10 Barrel Brewing Co., also in Boise, took home bronze for its Power to the People beer in the same category.

9. Maine

Number of breweries: 17

Total brewery jobs: 305

Total brewery job concentration: 1.66 times the national average.

In 2014, Allagash Brewing Company in Portland was the 50th-largest U.S. brewer based on beer sales volume according to the Brewers Association. Boston Magazine declared this maker of Belgian-style beers the second-best brewery in New England in 2015.

8. Wisconsin

Number of breweries: 45

Total brewery jobs: 2,119

Total brewery job concentration: 2.41 times the national average.

Miller and Leinenkugel aren’t the only beer game in the Badger State. Wisconsin craft breweries like New Glarus and Minhas are among the biggest smaller producers of beer in the country, according to the Brewers Association.

7. New Hampshire

Number of breweries: 17

Total brewery jobs: 514

Total brewery job concentration: 2.57 times the national average.

Seattle-based Redhook has a brewery in Portsmouth, N.H., but Smuttynose in Hampton has been a local favorite since 1994. Plus, Serious Eats named its Scotch Ale the best craft beer in the state.

6. Alaska

Number of breweries: 17

Total brewery jobs: 299

Total brewery job concentration: 2.89 times the national average.

Sipping a beer is one way to pass the long, cold Alaskan nights. The Silver Gulch brewpub in Fox, just outside of Fairbanks, is the northernmost brewery in the United States, according to Lonely Planet.

5. Oregon

Beer Pub, bar
Source: iStock

Number of breweries: 96

Total brewery jobs: 1,834

Total brewery job concentration: 3.26 times the national average.

Oregon brewers produce more than 1 million barrels of craft beer ever year, according to the Brewers Association. Buoy Beer in Astoria is one of them. Portland Monthly named its Czech Pilsner one of its favorite beers of 2015.

4. Missouri

Number of breweries: 29

Total brewery jobs: 2,950

Total brewery job concentration: 3.43 times the national average.

Anheuser-Busch is the big name in Missouri beer, but it was two smaller Show Me State breweries that came out on top of the Washington Post’s 2015 Beer Madness bracket. Schlafly Kolsch and Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale were the big winners.

3. Vermont

Number of breweries: 19

Total brewery jobs: 340

Total brewery job concentration: 3.48 times the national average.

“Small state, big beer,” is the motto of the Vermont Brewers Association. Among the state’s many breweries is von Trapp Brewing, which is owned by the same family made famous in the The Sound of Music.

2. Montana

Number of breweries: 49

Total brewery jobs: 510

Total brewery job concentration: 3.6 times the national average.

There are dozens of breweries churning out excellent beers in Montana, but the best Treasure-State pint is the Double Haul IPA produced by Kettlehouse Brewing Company in Missoula, at least according to the Missoula Independent.

1. Colorado

Number of breweries: 149

Total brewery jobs: 4,398

Total brewery job concentration: 5.57 times the national average.

Colorado may be the perfect state for beer lovers. The state’s governor John Hickenlooper is even a beer expert, having founded Wynkoop Brewing before entering politics. Today, Elevation Beer Company, New Belgium, and Oskar Blues are among the most essential breweries in the state, according to Eater.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS

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