Could Wisconsin Ever Have Too Many Craft Beers?


The number of breweries opening in Wisconsin continues to rise. That rapid growth, however, makes some people concerned about eventually oversaturating the local market for craft beers.

According to the Brewers Association, there are almost 100 breweries in Wisconsin, ranging widely in shape and size. There are international beer giants, small independent brewpubs, and regional contract brewers that make their beer in rented facilities.

There are at least 25 breweries in the planning process around the state, and that number is expected to dramatically grow in the coming years.

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Sprecher Brewing Company President Jeff Hamilton is the past president of the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild. He says there’s room for growth, but like any industry, oversaturation could eventually cause some breweries to close. “We can probably see another five to six years of ‘boom!’, [and] then we’ll see how it goes from there. We’ll see how many people shake out or if we go ultra-small and ultra-local.”

Hamilton says breweries are popping up in more small towns, which is reminiscent of Wisconsin’s past.

South Shore Brewery owner Bo Bélanger is the president of the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild. He says there’s plenty of room for more craft brewers in the state, since craft beer sales only account for up to five percent of the beer sold in Wisconsin. Bélanger says that doesn’t even compare to other states where craft beer makes up 30 percent of the market. “We’ve got a long way yet to go – a long way to go! – to even come close to California, Oregon, New York,” he said. “Our sights are set on 15-20 percent of beer sales being craft: Wisconsin craft.”

Bélanger says expanding the markets will depend on consumer demand and distributors offering more craft beers.