Oregon craft brewers see continued decline in draft beer sales, more closures

By Allison Frost (OPB)
Jan. 20, 2024 2 p.m.

Industry leaders say the pandemic and other factors shifted consumer habits

Oregon’s storied craft brewing industry suffered one of its worst years in 2023, with depressed draft beer sales and rising costs creating more pressure than some of the state’s businesses could bear.

According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, Oregon is home to about 400 breweries, brewpubs and taprooms, which collectively provide 50,000 jobs and generate nearly $9 billion in economic output. But the state lost around 30 of those businesses last year, and even more have contracted or are seriously struggling.

Migration Brewing's Little Foot Red has half the carbon footprint of the brewery's traditional red beer.

Migration Brewing's Little Foot Red is pictured in this file photo.

Stephen Baboi

“We are seeing national trends towards canned cocktails, Seltzers and more nonalcoholic beer options,” said Sonia Marie Leikam, the co-owner of Leikam Brewing and the vice president of the Oregon Brewers Guild. “Those make up now about a third of our sales. They are lower profit margins for us, and that impacts our bottom line.”

Leikam says that, like other small craft brewers, she works another job in addition to her time at the family brewery.

“We also are spending just a ton more time and energy creating events,” she said. “So we now have crafting classes and a book club and comedy nights. Really anything that the community wants, we offer our space for those activities to drive folks into the tap room.”


At its peak before the pandemic, Laurelwood Brewing Company had three restaurant locations, in addition to three retail outlets at the Moda Center and two others at the Portland airport. Over time, said owner Mike De Kalb, the profit margins just disappeared. Laurelwood Brewing Company closed its last retail location late last year.

“The economy was different back then. People’s habits were different. People wanted to go out, they wanted to get out of the house and go frequent tap rooms,” De Kalb said. “All the streaming services, DoorDash, Uber Eats, people could order things in … People’s habits changed. People’s habits have been ingrained over two years of ordering, online services, grocery stores, those sort of things. And, when we opened up again, we had an initial rush, but then they went back to their old habits.”

Two different Leikam Brewing beers are pictured in this photo provided by the Southeast Portland business.

Two different Leikam Brewing beers are pictured in this photo provided by the Southeast Portland business.

Courtesy Leikam Brewing

Leikam says breweries will continue to try to adapt and respond to things like “Dry January” and ad campaigns that discourage drinking alcohol.

“I think legal and moderate consumption of alcohol is absolutely reasonable and should be supported,” she said.

But she also pointed out that alcohol is a big industry in the state. “Beer, wine, cider, spirits — these are all huge parts of the Oregon economic machine. The third largest source of revenue for the state is this sector.”

Leikam has a message for people who want to see the industry survive.

“Make that extra stop. If you’re going to buy beer, buy it directly from a brewery tap room or a bottle shop,” she said. “Schedule a get together with friends, hold a PT [Parent Teacher] night at your local brewery. We offer nonalcoholic beverages too. We have community gathering spaces. We have philanthropy nights. Reach out to us. Talk to your local brewery. We’re here for you.”