Beer used to be like 1970s television programming: you only had a few choices, and most of them kinda sucked. But these days, there are hundreds of channels — and a historic rise in the number of US breweries cranking out a wide variety of suds.

According to the Brewers Association, there are now more than 2,100 stateside breweries. That’s up 350 since last year, and it represents the highest number since 1887. In addition, there are currently 1,200 breweries looking to open, compared to 725 at this time in 2011.

And it isn’t just the giant conglomerates making all the money. Overall, craft brewing outpaced overall US beer sales during the first half of 2012, with mid-year data showing small and independent domestic brewers are enjoying a 14 percent increase in dollar sales and 12 percent jump in volume. Compare that to total beer sales, which are largely the same as they were last year, and you’ll see just how well those mom and pop operations are doing.

“Beer drinkers are responding to the quality and diversity created by small American brewing companies,” said Brewers Association President Paul Gatza. “India pale ales, seasonal beers, Belgian-inspired ales and a range of specialty beers are just a few of the beer styles that are growing rapidly.”

What is your favorite Montana brew?


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