The craft beer industry has reached a critical mass in North San Diego County, which nearly 40 breweries and brewpubs employing 850 people and generating $185 million in sales, according to a report released Wednesday.
Highway 78 has been nicknamed the “hops highway,” and the City of Vista has emerged as a major brewing center with 10 breweries and three more opening thanks to an aggressive public-private partnership, according to the report.
The report by National University System Institute for Policy Research was commissioned by the San Diego North Economic Development Council and presented at a symposium in Vista.
“Vista per capita in the nation is number one in breweries. We recognize the importance these establishments bring, not only to Vista but to all of North County,” said Vista Mayor Judy Ritter in welcoming a crowd of more than 250 to the event at the Vista Civic Center.
Erik Bruvold, president of the policy institute, said craft brew is still a small part of the overall beer market, but growing at double-digit rates. He said San Diego County leads the state in breweries and brewpubs, with a total of 90.
“A significant degree of craft brewing activity in San Diego is centered in North County. With greater collaboration between brewers and elected officials, more industry development and opportunities can be created,” the report concludes, noting that regulations covering breweries vary among the different municipalities and should be coordinated.
Bruvold said breweries are both industrial and commercial in character, with a combination of production and tasting, and local zoning and municipal regulations need to allow for this.
He noted that growth of the craft beer industry is encouraging local suppliers of such products as hops, yeast, tanks and support services.
“Craft brew is a big part of our North County brand and a draw for visitors and tourists,” said Carl Morgan, CEO of the North County council.
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