In San Diego, beer is bigger business than Comic-Con

As big of a boon as Comic-Con International is to the San Diego economy, new research has found something significantly larger: beer.

U-T San Diego reports that an independent study released on Monday-- it's the first devoted to the impact of local craft brewing -- found the county's breweries accounted for $299.5 million in wages,  capital expenses and contracts in 2011. The direct economic impact of Comic-Con International that same year was about $180 million, up a little from the $163 million figure found in a 2010 study commissioned by the San Diego Convention Center Corp.

Add to that $299.5 million beer number a reported $680.8 million in local brewery sales, and hotel and restaurant revenues from events like San Diego Beer Week. The new study determined local brewpubs employ 1,133 people, and breweries another 497.

Comic-Con is so important to the city's economy that San Diego officials have championed a somewhat-controversial $550 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, in part to keep the annual event from moving to larger venues in Anaheim or Los Angeles.

So how will the San Diego Brewers Guild (yes, there is one) use its new data as leverage? Well, some regions are already aggressively promoting themselves to affluent "beer tourists" (really!).

“San Diego is going to have to be more forward-thinking,” cautioned study author Vince Vasquez, a senior policy analyst with National University. “We have to bring together San Diego’s tourism boosters and the craft beer industry.”

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