Virginia beer industry contributes to farm economy

A recent report found that the Virginia beer industry contributes more than $8.8 billion annually to the state’s economy.

Beer Serves America: A Study of the U.S. Beer Industry’s Economic Contribution in 2018, was commissioned by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute.

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Credit: Syda Productions

The report said Virginia’s beer business helps support nearly 56,126 jobs and accounts for $2.5 billion each year in wages and benefits.

Nationally, the beer industry “contributes more than $328 billion in economic output,” which is equivalent to 1.6 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, the study found. This economic output translates to nearly 2.1 million jobs nationwide.

The report said that for every job created in America’s brewing industry, 31 other full-time positions are generated—in wholesale, retail, manufacturing and farming.

“Virginia’s craft beer industry continues to grow and provide farmers with opportunities above and beyond what was envisioned a decade ago,” noted Greg Hicks, vice president of communications for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Everything from hops to barley to berries and honey is part of the state’s beer industry.”

Chris Swersey, supply chain specialist for the national Brewers Association, said craft brewers today are “more connected than ever to farmers. Two of the four main ingredients in beer—barley malt and hops—are high-value specialty crops produced on family farms.”

Barry Wood, owner of Wood Ridge Farm Brewery in Lovingston, is an example of a Virginian directly involved in both the farming and brewing industries. Wood raises two-row barley and wheat on his 300-acre farm, operates a malting facility and maintains his local brewery.

Prior to opening the brewery in September 2016, Wood raised barley and wheat for nearly seven years. During that time, he provided grains for Devils Backbone Brewing Co. and Silverback Distillery before deciding to open his own brewery.

“It was a just a natural way to go,” Wood noted. “We wanted to create a real local space for people to gather, where we could use our own farm-to-table crops.”

Wood Ridge Farm Brewery carries 15 beers year-round, with additional seasonal beers throughout the year. The specialty beers sometimes feature seasonal fruit, like strawberries, from other farms in the area.

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