It was a startling announcement: As of Dec. 1, 2015, the Brewers Association had counted 4,144 breweries in the United States, the most ever operating simultaneously in the history of the country. According to historians, the previous high-water mark of 4,131 was set in 1873.
The new number includes giant Budweiser, artisan Dogfish Head and your neighborhood brewpub. Although beer industry observers have known this day was coming, the pace of growth was explosive: At the end of 2011, there were 2,033 breweries, or fewer than half as many as now. In 2005, there were only 1,447. And 25 years ago? The Brewers Association, a trade group for small and independent breweries, logged a mere 284 in 1990.