The map above shows the geography of beer and wine production in the United States. I've plotted the locations of the country's 4,500 commercial brewers and nearly 10,000 winemakers (notes and caveats on this data in a moment). The map divides the country into a grid of equally sized regions, counts the number of beer and winemakers in each region, and places a hexagon marker in each region colored by whether beer or winemakers are more prevalent, and sized according to the total number of beverage makers in the region.
The West Coast jumps out immediately for the incredible concentration of winemakers there. The California coast is dominant, but Oregon and Washington stand out as well. Washington's Cascade Valley is also hard to miss. On the other coast, Long Island, New York's Finger Lakes region, and parts of Virginia are colored deep purple too.
But the map also shows that wineries are everywhere, and in places you wouldn't necessary expect. We can see that even more clearly if we map just the wineries, below.
Southern California, just inland of San Diego. Tucson. Grand Junction, Colorado. Dallas and Austin. Cleveland. And literally thousands of places in between. There are an improbable number of winemaking outfits in Oklahoma, and no small number in Florida. Think about this for a minute. It means that one day, somebody sat down and said "I bet people would like to drink Florida wine." And not just one somebody, but dozens of them!
Let's take a look at beer. Going back to the original map, beermaking dominates in the Denver region, and along the Southern California coast. Tucson may be wine country, but brewers rule in Phoenix. Brewers are strongly represented along the coast of Lake Michigan, and in most of Florida. Brewing is big in East coast cities too. Here's a map showing breweries only.
These maps reflect the tremendous rise of regional winemaking over the past decade. Beermaking has seen impressive growth too, driven primarily by the craft beer segment of the market, but only in the most recent few years. This chart below, from the Census, tells that tale. The number of American wineries has increased by about 260 percent since 1998. Breweries are up 175 percent, with almost all of that increase happening since 2010.
The Census data suggest that the number of wineries is starting to plateau. And indeed, observers had started asking how many wineries is too many starting in at least 2011. Beermakers, on the other hand, particularly craft brewers, appear to be poised for some more growth. The success of craft brewing has even inspired soda makers to try their hand at the same.
Notes on the data
Getting a comprehensive winery list is relatively uncomplicated. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a division of the Treasury Department, maintains a list of permitted wine producers. Not every one of these outfits is what we might think of as a traditional winery, with vineyards and tasting and bands playing bluegrass music on the weekends -- some are wine blenders, who buy different wines from elsewhere and bottle unique blends, or who fortify wine by adding a spirit like brandy.
The beer list is a little more complicated. The TTB doesn't make a list of brewers publicly available due to a quirk of the tax code. So I obtained a crowdsourced geocoded list of U.S. commercial breweries from poi-factory.com, a site for GPS enthusiasts.
Different entities classify breweries and wineries differently. For instance, according to the U.S. Census Bureau there are 880 breweries in the U.S. The U.S. Brewers' Association says there are north of 3,000. The dataset I used shows more than 4,000. These differences all hinge on how a brewery is defined -- whether the definition includes brewpubs, or chains of breweries, or places closed part of the year, or what-have-you.
I chose both datasets -- wine and beer -- to err on the side of a broad definition, in order to get a sense of where people in the U.S. are making beer and wine. This broad brushstroke is more important for the purposes of this piece than individual tallies of wineries and breweries.
Many thanks to the Post's Ted Mellnik for geocoding the winery data.