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Craft breweries in Richmond area still strong a decade later

February 20, 2022 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — In 2012, Virginia lawmakers ended some Prohibition-era rules and allowed breweries to sell beer by the glass at their production facilities. The law sparked a boom in craft breweries, cideries and distilleries that is still going strong a decade later.

The legislation passed after a lobbying effort from what was then only about 11 members of the upstart Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. Now, there are close to 300 brewery members of the guild.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that after 10 years under the regulatory changes, Virginia’s craft beer industry is adjusting to a far more competitive marketplace, with retail shelf space for distributed beers becoming more and more crowded, and with numerous neighborhood breweries competing for customers.

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On top of that, breweries have had to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many of them to consider new models of selling, including having curbside pickup and delivery.

The brewers guild lost only six breweries during the pandemic, two of which were expansions of existing breweries, said Brett Vassey, president and CEO of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild and the Virginia Manufacturers Association. “That is remarkable, when you consider that states like Oregon have estimated they lost somewhere north of 20% of their industry because they kept everything locked down.”

In Virginia, breweries were able to navigate the pandemic through curbside sales, deliveries and focusing on offering outdoor options for customers.

Last year, Virginia became the top state in the South for the number of craft breweries per capita. Overall, the state today ranks 12th in the nation for total number of craft breweries.