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Nova Scotia Has Most Breweries and Other Fun Facts

The last couple years I I have run a bunch of stats on the number of breweries in each of Canada’s provinces and published a kind of informal state of the beer union in Canada. You can find the previous renditions here and here.

I thought it was time to update those numbers. I have also refined my methodology somewhat.

The job is harder than it looks, as there is no central repository for the number of breweries in Canada (we don’t have the equivalent of the Brewers Association here). I keep a database of breweries compiled from a variety of sources and do my best to keep it up to date. I am reasonably confident it captures breweries operating as of June 2017 (I may miss a few, but I am close enough that the numbers are accurate).

What’s the lead story? Nova Scotia retains its title as the province with the highest number of breweries per capita. Manitoba continues to have the lowest, but has gained ground in the last year. Ontario has the most breweries in total. Every province (except the Territories) increased their per capita score, which suggests the craft beer industry in Canada is still in growth mode.

I present the data in the table below, providing both the number of breweries and the per capita statistics. As in previous years I have broken out contract breweries so that readers can decide for themselves which number is most reflective of the state of craft beer.

New for this year is a change to the population base I work from. In previous years I have just used the most recent total population figures. To that, this year I add calculations based upon the population aged 15 years and over (the closest I can easily get to the adult population from StatsCan). I do this in part to make the Canadian data somewhat more comparable to the Brewers’ Association numbers, which are based upon 21+ population. I present both, at least this year, because I HATE in my day job when studies shift methodology and don’t show the old calculations meaning comparisons become impossible. The use of 15+ does mean I add about 3-4% of the population who are not legally permitted to drink (but many likely do anyway), a relatively small distortion.

Craft Breweries Contract Breweries Per 100,000 Population Per 100,000 Pop. (w. contract) Per 100,000 pop, 15 yrs+ Per 100,000 pop, 15 yrs+ (w. contract)
B.C. 125 15 2.63 2.95 3.89 4.36
Alberta 50 6 1.18 1.32 1.69 1.89
Saskatchewan 17 0 1.48 1.48 2.24 2.24
Manitoba 9 1 0.68 0.76 1.03 1.15
Ontario 239 48 1.71 2.05 2.52 3.03
Quebec 154 22 1.85 2.11 2.79 3.18
Nova Scotia 41 0 4.32 4.32 6.49 6.49
New Brunswick 29 1 3.83 3.96 5.82 6.02
P.E.I. 4 0 3.37 3.37 4.12 4.12
Newfoundland 5 0 0.94 0.94 1.41 1.41
Territories 3 0 2.52 2.52 3.63 3.63

Nova Scotia’s growth in craft breweries appears to not be abating anytime soon. It really is something of a remarkable story, when you think about it. Canadian beer drinkers (rightly) extol the virtues of Vancouver, Victoria or Montreal. But sleepy Nova Scotia quietly tops them all. Plus it is not all Halifax – 23 different Nova Scotia communities are home to a brewery. Most of these breweries are small but when it comes to craft beer size (especially small size) doesn’t matter. Hats off to Nova Scotia.

It is noteworthy that Alberta made a huge jump, tripling its per capita score, in the last year. Other big jumps come from Manitoba and PEI (based upon one new brewery opening). Saskatchewan was fairly quiet. Manitoba more than quadrupled its number of breweries to help it make up ground, but it still lags.

Canada vs. U.S.

These numbers always make me curious how Canada stacks against the U.S. Everyone swoons at the American craft beer movement. But did you know Canada has more breweries per capita than they do? It is true:

  • Canada: 769 breweries, 3.14 per 100,000 15+ population
  • U.S.: 5301 breweries, 2.20 per 100,000 21+ population

If anything my comparison under-estimates Canada as it takes in a broader population base. I think this fact goes under-reported because the Canadian industry doesn’t have a national-scale advocacy organization. We do have Beer Canada, but they represent the big corporate breweries (although craft breweries are members as well), meaning they have no incentive to break out these kind of numbers.

Some other fun facts:

  • Nova Scotia ranks 6th on the continent for breweries per capita, just behind Maine and one spot ahead of Washington (really!)
  • Alberta ranks 39th on the continent, just behind New York
  • Saskatchewan has more breweries, in raw numbers, than 7 U.S. states
  • Only 5 U.S. states have more breweries than Ontario (California, Washington, Oregon, New York and Colorado)
  • California, population 39 million, has fewer breweries than Canada, population 36 million (623 to 769)

In the U.S. craft makes up about 12% of all beer sales. No Canadian figures are available, but I doubt we get that high. My best guess is we are starting to close in on 10% but still in single digits. So that suggests on the whole Canadian breweries are smaller, proportionately, than their American counterparts. That is neither unexpected nor particularly troubling.

In all, Canadians should feel pretty pumped about the state of our craft beer industry. It is healthy, growing and quietly proportionate to the U.S. industry.

I will try to do a similar analysis again next year. Keep checking the site everyday just in case!



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