The Tuckahoe Brewing Co.began business in a 2,000-square-foot space in Ocean View with a system to brew 500 barrels of beer per year.

Three and a half years later, the company is getting ready to move into a location five times bigger in Egg Harbor Township. And the company plans to brew 2,500 barrels of beer a year, five times more than before.

“The demand is there for the beer,” said Tom Hanna, an owner of Tuckahoe. “Business is going really, really well.”

While Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and other large craft brewers continue to gain market share, the number of small breweries, including nanobreweries at the other end of the spectrum, is exploding, providing adventurous offerings to a new generation of beer drinkers that increasingly places a premium on locally produced beer.

That growth is evident locally. South Jersey breweries are reporting big business for their beers.

Cape May Brewing Company dedicated a new brewhouse at the Cape May Airport earlier this month. The company began in 2011 brewing just 12 gallons of beer at a time and had just one customer. Now, the brewery makes 1,500 gallons at a time and supplies 300 bars and restaurants. The brewery has 35 full-time jobs with benefits. It began with just Ryan Krill, Chris Henke and Ryan’s father, Robert.

“We’ve come a long way in a short period of time,” Ryan Krill said.

Ryan Krill thinks part of the recent craze over local craft beer has to do with an off-shoot of locavore movement, in which people prefer to eat food grown locally.

“People want to know where their beer is coming from,” he said.

That’s similar to what Paul Simmons, owner of Glasstown Brewing Company in Millville had to say.

His brewery, too, is expanding, going from a system that made 55 gallons of beer at a time to one that makes 93. He said the brewery has been able to bring in the same local customers on a regular basis.

“It’s really a local, niche thing,” he said. “People who have hometown pride get behind their breweries.”

There also seems to be a wide range of clientele. The owners said they’ve had customers of all ages, from their 20s to 80s.

The modern craft brewery movement started on the West Coast in the 1970s. New England became the epicenter of the second wave, led by Boston Beer Co., maker of Samuel Adams, and Harpoon Brewing Co. Along the way, the amber lagers, brown ales and dark stouts have transformed from a novelty to a big business as a new generation became accustomed to sampling different styles of beer.

Last year, 615 new craft breweries opened across the United States, bringing the total number, including the largest and the smallest, to 3,418, according to Brewers Association, the Colorado-based trade group representing craft brewers. That’s a level approaching the peak of 4,131 breweries in 1873, an era when lack of refrigeration and slow transportation necessitated local production of suds.

These days, craft brewers make about one in nine beers consumed in the U.S.; the industry has an aggressive goal of doubling that within five years, Brewers Association said.

“This is not a fad. This is slow, steady, stable growth,” said Julia Herz, craft program director at the Brewers Association.

The nation’s largest beer makers, Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors, meanwhile, are buying up smaller breweries. MillerCoors owns Colorado-based Blue Moon. Anheuser Busch started Shock Top years ago and purchased Chicago-based Goose Island Brewing Co.

Anheuser Busch acknowledged the growth of microbrews by declaring itself a “macro brew” in a Super Bowl TV ad.

“The big guys are scared of the little guys,” said Amy Fowler of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, while buying some Bissell Brothers to take on a trip to Belgium. “They’re recognizing that there’s a threat.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Contact: 609-272-7215

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.

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