In this July 30, 2018, photo, a stack of Rising Tide beers sits near the bar at the brewery's facility in Portland, Maine. Rising Tide and other breweries in northern New England use their brewery facilities as a type of test lab to allow patrons to try out new products. Credit: Patrick Whittle | AP

Craft breweries continue to be a major economic driver in Maine and across all 50 U.S. states, newly released U.S. Census Bureau data show.

All 50 states saw an increase in the number of breweries between 2012 and 2016, according to the most recent data available. In those five years, the number of breweries nationwide more than tripled from 880 to 2,802.

Of that total, 2,605 had fewer than 50 employees. Craft breweries employed more than 55,000 workers with a total yearly payroll of $2.6 billion, U.S. Census data show.

And more than 25 percent of the nation’s 3,143 counties have at least one craft brewery. The number does not include businesses such as restaurants that brew their own beer and that the U.S. Census Bureau might classify as being in an industry other than “breweries.”

The states with the most breweries in 2016 were California, with 368, followed by Colorado, Washington, New York and North Carolina. States with the highest growth in breweries from 2012 to 2016 were West Virginia, Wyoming, Mississippi, South Dakota and Arkansas.

Maine, with its smaller population, may not be among the largest in brewery numbers in the United States, but the local craft brewing industry continues to boom.

The U.S. Census Bureau listed the state as having 41 breweries in 2016, up 215 percent from the 13 in 2012. Cumberland County had the most in 2016 with 16 breweries. Penobscot had three.

More recent numbers from the Maine Brewers’ Guild show that the growth of craft brewers in the state is up almost 40 percent since January 2017, from 93 then to 130 now.

New breweries expected to open soon include NU Brewery in New Gloucester, Blaze Brewing in Camden and Stars & Stripes Brewing in Freeport, according to Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild in South Portland.

Recent additions around Bangor include Black Bear Brewing of Orono, which opened a second taproom in Bangor in April.

In 2016, craft brewers had a $228 million economic impact on Maine and employed a total of 2,177, both including multiplier effects from related businesses.

An average of six craft breweries opened annually statewide during the past decade, according to a study released in March 2017 by the University of Maine School of Economics and the Maine Brewers’ Guild.

Sullivan said the two groups are in the midst of a new study to be released in early January that will include more details and likely higher economic impact numbers than the last report.

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