When beer becomes big business

Beer industry adds $10 billion, 69K jobs to WI economy

Sean P. Johnson
Posted by of Insight Publications

We’ve always liked our beer in Wisconsin. Not that we needed convincing, but now Wisconsinites have even more reasons to like it more than before.

The next time you crack open a cold one, remember this — you are helping to grow the Wisconsin economy. The craft brew you love so much? It’s creating jobs — lots of them.

A national study conducted earlier this year by the National Beer Wholesalers and the Beer Institute found the beer industry contributes more than $10.5 billion annually to the Wisconsin economy, supporting more than 69,000 jobs in the state. Who knew having a cold one could be so good for business?

“Wow! That’s pretty awesome,” says Andrew Fabry, president and co-founder of Badger State Brewing Co. in Green Bay. “But when you stop to think about it — all of the things that go into beer — it might not be as surprising.”

Fabry sees the industry up-close every day and quickly points out it’s not just the beers he and his growing team brew and serve up at Badger State, but it’s the distributors, the suppliers, the retailers and an entire network of industries that are involved in supporting the beer industry in Wisconsin.

It’s an industry that is also growing. Badger State was founded in 2012 as part of a wave of craft brewers that set up shop throughout the region and state. While overall beer sales have declined in recent years, the craft and micro-brew segments have been seeing double-digit growth.

Many of the regional craft breweries in Northeast Wisconsin have added new facilities, upped production and hired staff to keep pace with the region’s thirst for new and interesting brews. Badger State is not different. It’s brewery and taproom in the shadow of Lambeau Field have grown from 1,200 square feet to more than 28,000, they have doubled their production to more than 2,000 barrels a year and the staff has grown to 24, more than half full-time employees.

“It’s pretty humbling to think about how things have grown in just the past few years,” says Fabry.

Using data from both U.S. government and industry sources, the study’s authors looked at jobs and revenue both directly and indirectly tied to the beer industry. Direct jobs and economic impact comes from the brewing, wholesaling and retailing sectors, while the indirect impacts come supporting industries such and trucking, manufacturing — someone needs to build the tanks and other equipment involved — and professional services such as finance or accounting.

In Northeast Wisconsin, the study found almost 17,000 jobs with direct and indirect ties to the beer industry, paying more than $600 million in wages and generating more than $2 billion in economic activity.

“A lot of our ingredients and materials are provided by local suppliers or from the state of Wisconsin” Fabry says. “People probably aren’t thinking about that when they buy their favorite local craft brew, but it makes an impact.”