(Beer Institute)

The number of brewery permits issued last year soared to new all-time highs, with about a third concentrated in just four states — California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon — according to a beer industry trade group.

(Beer Institute) (Beer Institute)

There were 3,699 permitted breweries in the United States last year, roughly 34 percent more than the year before, according to Beer Institute data. Of the 948 permits issued by the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau last year, 322 were issued in those four states. The West was home to 40 percent of permitted breweries, followed by the Midwest at 24 percent, the South at 19 percent and the Northeast at 17 percent. Permit counts are not the same as brewer counts because brewers can share or own more than one brewery.

The majority of the new permits went to brewpubs, according to a Beer Institute analysis.

“Beer is constantly evolving in the U.S., with more small brewers than ever before, more brands being introduced by national brewers and growing interest in imports,” said Chris Thorne, a spokesman for the group, whose dozens of members include some of the nation’s largest commercial breweries as well as smaller craft breweries.

The nation has a patchwork of laws governing breweries and brewpubs, with several new ones currently under consideration. In Maine, a lawmaker recently introduced a bill to undo a decades-old rule prohibiting establishments from listing alcohol contents — a stringent policy objected to by brewpub owners. A Michigan bill would give brewers a tax break for using local crops and strict rules separating producers, distributors and retailers in Minnesota are driving one local brewpub owner to expand across state lines in Wisconsin.

California is home to 508 permitted breweries, followed by Washington’s 62, Colorado’s 56, Oregon’s 59 and Michigan’s 48. Mississippi has just 6 permits, while North Dakota and West Virginia each has 9.

(Beer Institute)