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North County craft breweries generate $272.3 million annually

REGION — Craft beer has become a huge industry in North County and brings in 53 percent more annually than Comic-Con International, San Diego’s largest annual convention, according to a report released by San Diego North Economic Development Council.

The report was released Aug. 6 at the North County Craft Brew Symposium, which was held at the Vista Community Center.

Vista now has more breweries per capita than any other city in the nation, according to Eric Bruvold, president of National University System Institute for Policy Research, who complied the report.

He found that craft beer in North County, generated $272.3 million in 2013. Comic-Con International generated $177.8 million for the city in 2014.

The industry supports close to 1,700 jobs both directly and indirectly. North County has nearly 40 breweries and brewpubs employing about 850 people.

Indirectly, North County’s craft beer industry keeps $37.2 million in the local economy because industry employees buy goods and services locally.

“Just as the craft brewing industry has become an integral part of the city of San Diego’s identity, the same has happened for North County, providing the area’s locals access to breweries and brewpubs, and creating a vibrant Beer Tourism industry,” said Brian Scott, president of San Diego Brewers Guild.

The symposium held on Wednesday was the first of its kind and organizers hoped to raise awareness of the economic benefits of the North County craft brew industry.

Carl Morgan, CEO of SDNEDC said there is a campaign to insure that North County craft beer is being served in local restaurants and the local hospitality industry.

“It really is a part of the overall brand when we are talking about and promoting our region and how important it is to support that industry by making sure the taps in our restaurants are serving North County craft beer,” said Morgan.

CEO of Stone Brewing Co. Greg Koch also talked about the importance of local establishments serving local beer.

“I only eat at restaurants that serve San Diego craft beer because you gotta wonder, where else are they compromising that’s not so obvious,” Koch said of restaurants that don’t serve craft beer.

According to Bruvold, brand awareness for craft beer happens mainly through word of mouth.

“Few craft brewers pay for advertising, and depend more on distribution and word of mouth for marketing and revenue,” Bruvold wrote in the report.

Koch spoke to the crowd of about 250 on Wednesday about best marketing practices.

Stone, which got its start in San Marcos, is the tenth largest craft brewery in the United States and recently announced plans to become the first American craft brewery to open in Europe.

The symposium hosted a Q & A with Melissa Ryan, district supervisor at Alcoholic Beverage Control, San Marcos district office, to give brewers the opportunity to ask questions about regulation.

Questions ranged from what can be donated to a non-profit to how can a business expedite the process of getting licensed by the ABC (she answered with not much.)

Ryan said the most common violations she sees are patrons getting over-served, whether it be by volunteers at a charity event or at brewpubs.

She stressed the importance of breweries always complying by regulations and asking non-profits hosting a function if they have the proper licenses to serve alcohol.

“I know you think you’re all friends, but everybody tells on everybody else,” Ryan joked.

Other panelists from the region included Gina Marsaglia, owner of Pizza Port, Melody Campbell, president of Vista Brewers Guild, Mike Shess, publisher of WestCoaster SD and Economic Development Director of Vista, Kevin Ham.