Florida loves beer — nearly $22 billion worth of it.
That's according to an economic impact report conducted by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute released earlier this month that shows the beer industry contributed $21.6 billion to Florida in 2016.
The industry also provided 160,706 jobs, accounting for more than $6.7 billion in wages paid in the state and generating more than $1.2 billion in consumption taxes. That's a lot of beer drinking.
More than $2.7 billion in taxes were also generated for the federal, state, and local governments.
The report shows that, all told, beer contributes more than $350 billion to the national economy and generated 2.23 million jobs.
In the past two years, the number of brewing facilities grew by 1,375, of which most are "very small" brewers or brewpubs, while "large and regional" brewers account for about 58 percent of total employment in the industry.
The report measured the entire output of the industry — brewers, importers, distributors, and retailers — not just craft beer, although that industry contributed greatly.
The numbers are good news to some Florida brewers and somewhat of a surprise to others, such as M.I.A. Beer Company cofounder Eddie Leon.
"What doesn't come as a surprise are all the new jobs breweries have created," Leon says. "M.I.A. Beer Company alone has created 40 full-time jobs."
Florida as a whole has a long way to go compared to the rest of the country when it comes to the craft beer industry. Florida ranks 43rd in the nation with at least 195 craft breweries, according to the Brewers Association, which averages about 1.3 breweries per 100,000 people.
More are coming, though. In Miami-Dade County alone, at least six breweries are slated to open in 2017.
Kent Bailey, president of the Florida Brewers Guild and president of Tampa's Coppertail Brewing Company, hadn't yet seen the report when New Times interviewed him, but he attributes much of the growth in the state to people wanting to drink something other than mass-produced beer from large industrial brewing companies.
"That's what the people want," Bailey says. "They want variety, flavor, creativity. I think it's a pent-up need."
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