Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Recreation and Park Administration

First Advisor

Michael J. Bradley

Department Affiliation

Recreation and Park Administration

Second Advisor

James N. Maples

Department Affiliation

Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work

Third Advisor

Stephanie McSpirit

Department Affiliation

Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work


Craft beer has gained popularity and evolved into an immense industry in recent years. The number of breweries in the United States has increased from 1,460 in 2006 to over 5,300 in 2016 ("Number of breweries and brewpubs in U.S.," n.d.). There are more breweries now than at any other time in U.S. history. The influx of breweries has contributed to increased participation in craft beer consumption and beer tourism. Plummer, Telfer, Hashimoto, and Summers (2005) define beer tourism as "visitation to breweries, beer festivals and beer shows for which beer tasting and experiencing the attributes of a beer region are the prime motivating factors for visitors" (p. 449). The resurgence of beer and especially craft beer in America has led to increased interest in the industry. There are reports and information on beer consumers, however, there is a dearth of literature on brewery visitors. A necessary first step in researching beer tourism is to obtain an initial understanding of beer tourists, in this study, brewery visitors. Additional data on brewery visitor motivations can help guide craft brewery management and marketing in order to increase repeat visitors. Craft breweries can benefit from the efficiency that additional knowledge of their customers' preferences would bring.

This study aims to explore the people who visit Kentucky craft breweries in order to identify brewery visitors and their motivations. To do this, researchers administered an on-site questionnaire to Kentucky brewery visitors. Only surveys from visitors that live outside the city or county in which the brewery was located were used for this study. Survey participants answered demographic questions and were asked to rate their level of agreement, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree, with Likert-style statements on motivation and experience preferences. There were 302 surveys completed, and results suggest Kentucky brewery visitors as primarily male, white, well-educated, having a high yearly income, and an average age of 33 years old. Visitors are motivated to visit breweries to try new beer, to experience Kentucky beer, to buy beer, and to be with friends and family. Further, participants plan on sampling beer and purchasing beer beyond sampling while at a brewery.

Visitors are also likely to visit a brewery with friends and family. Therefore, breweries need to offer several avenues for social interaction such as trivia, game nights, or live music. Based on findings in this study, breweries should also offer a variety of seasonal and local beer. While white males with higher incomes make up a majority of brewery visitors and should be a primary target market, breweries should take steps to attract other consumers to craft beer. Results indicate breweries have room to increase visitation and diversity by marketing to women and minorities. As the craft brewery industry considers the future, information about brewery visitors will help guide brewery management to target marketing efforts in ways that position the industry for growth and community impact.