Of course, this doesn't bode well for those of us that like a lot of selection. It bodes very well for Wisconsin breweries looking to continue serving Wisconsinites beer. Perhaps most ominous is what this means for hopes of attracting other high-profile National (or large regional) breweries like Green Flash, Brooklyn, Surly, or Schlafly. Or what it means for other non-Wisconsin breweries like Upland, Squatters, or even a brewery like Great Lakes.
So, why does this happen? The short answer is that Wisconsin is a very attractive market for craft brewers. We drink, per capita, a lot of beer. We have a high number of breweries per capita (in 2008, we were 10th nationally [pdf], but 6th among states that actually had more than 25 breweries). Yet per capita income is barely in the top half in the United States. Which means that it isn't surprising that our percentage spent on craft beer, a higher cost, luxury, good is a mere 8%. Conversely, our cost of living is in the top 50%, as well.
While we don't make a ton of money here (we are right around the national median), it also doesn't cost a lot to live here (again, right around the national median). So, it shouldn't be a surprise that our consumption of craft beer, is approximate to the national average (about 7% by sales, and 4.3% by volume or so). But even look at that one statistic for a moment. 7% by share of sales ($), but only 4.3% by volume; that means that craft beer is selling for a lot more than "macro" beer, but it's barely making a dent in the amount of beer that is being consumed.
Let's step back and unwrap that all for a moment. We live in Wisconsin, a state where people make around the national average. Craft beer sells for a lot more than macro beer. There are a lot of craft breweries (as a percentage) in Wisconsin. So, if someone is going to spend their hard-earned money on craft beer, and there are a lot of local options, what do you think that means for Stone, Dogfish Head, Boulevard, and all of the others that sell the same product but have even higher price points and lower margins because of the transportation costs required to get the beer to you?