In Lean Times, a Stout Dream

[Beer Manufacturers]
Anne Ryan for The Wall Street JournalChicago’s Metropolitan Brewing, founded by Tracy and Doug Hurst, began selling its lagers this winter.

Written by David Kesmodel for The WSJ

The economic crisis has stifled entrepreneurial activity in many industries. But it’s done little to dent the ambitions of those who dream of brewing their own beer and offering it to the world.

Surprisingly large numbers of entrepreneurs — some let go from corporate jobs in recent years — have been starting microbreweries or brewpubs. Schools that teach brewing are being showered with applications from people interested in getting into the business. At the same time, enthusiasm for interesting new beers remains strong; BeerAdvocate.com, a Web site for beer enthusiasts, says its traffic has reached one million unique visitors a month, and is rising as much as 12% each month.

Last year, even as a recession gripped the country, 114 microbreweries and brewpubs — restaurants that make their own beer — opened in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association, a Boulder, Colo., trade group. That marked the highest number since 1999. Openings are expected to decline this year, but start-up activity remains robust, says Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. The group estimates 200 microbreweries and brewpubs already are on the drawing board for the next few years.
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