[ skip to content ]

More Information about this image

You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Annual Report: Craft Brewing Provides an “Economic Engine” for Hampton Roads

As the craft beer movement gained steam across the United States, Virginia was in danger of missing out on the party.

Outdated laws restricting on who could sell beer on premises meant that other parts of the country realized the benefits of a dramatic change in beer drinkers' tastes a decade ago.

This in Virginia changed in 2012 when the General Assembly passed SB 604 (signed by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, in a brewery no less), which cleared the way for on-site beer sales. This legislation made it more profitable for large and small breweries alike to operate within the state.

Once Hampton Roads rolled out the barrel, craft beer boomed in the region.

As detailed in the 2018 State of the Region report, produced by ODU's Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy, the change has been dramatic. Before the passage of SB 604, there were only four craft breweries in Hampton Roads. By May 1, 2018, that number had increased to 29.

The large number of craft beer openings here mirrors changing consumption patterns of beer lovers. Between 2011 and 2017, the share of the beer market dedicated to offerings produced by craft brewers — known by the Brewers Association as "small, independent and traditional" — increased from 5.7 percent to 12.7 percent.

"Our craft brewery scene is made up primarily of brewpubs and microbreweries, which have continued to thrive in recent years," the report notes. Their clientele, typically upscale and Caucasian, reflect some of the same ethos that underpins the "buy local" movement in every retail sector. Sales are also encouraged by a "tasting culture" which adds an experiential element to consumption — craft beer aficionados frequently buy the product and drink it onsite.

The craft beer trend has been joined by a new thrust toward craft distilleries, producing small-batch spirits for a niche market. The craft distillery movement still has a way to go to match the enthusiasm for locally brewed beer, the report notes.

The growth of craft brewing in Hampton Roads matches the nationwide expansion of the industry, but the State of the Region report notes it is still uncertain how many breweries the region can support. Green Flash Brewing closed in Virginia Beach this year.

However, the industry shows no signs of disappearing. It's both as an economic engine and an outcome of the region's recent boost in prosperity. Residents appear to be raising a glass - of local craft-brewed beer - to toast their success.

Related News Stories

Hampton Roads

Life in Hampton Roads Survey #1: Quality of Life

LIHR has been conducted by the Social Science Research Center with support from the Old Dominion University Office of Research and the College of Arts and Letters since 2010 and is now in its ninth year. (More)

State of the Region Report

“It’s Morning Again:” ODU Economists Offer Positive Outlook for Hamptons Roads

Old Dominion University economists Robert McNab and Vinod Agarwal said the region is experiencing an economic resurgence and has mostly recovered from the recession that began in 2008 during the 19th State of the Region Report. (More)

Cover of the 2018 Hampton Roads State of the Region report

Annual Report Says Hampton Roads Benefitting from Influx of Immigrants

Foreign newcomers have offset the departure of 52,000 other residents in Hampton Roads over the past seven years. (More)


Site Navigation

Presidential Inauguration

ODU commemorated the inauguration of President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., during Homecoming Weekend 2022. Relive the historic weekend.

Fall Open House

It's time to fall in love with ODU! Join us for our last Open House event of the semester on Saturday, November 19.

Commencement 2022

Visit the Commencement Office for information on event times, caps & gowns, tickets and more!