Local craft brewing scene part of a national trend
The Brewers Association, the trade association that tabulates production statistics for U.S. breweries, recently released craft brewing industry data for last year. The bad news for the beer industry as a whole is that overall beer sales were down approximately five million barrels in 2009. The good news is that sales dollars increased by more than ten percent for the craft beer segment of the market.
In 2009, the big boys (MillerCoors LLC, Anheuser-Busch, etc) saw a troubling slowdown in sales; however, small and independent craft brewers saw sales dollars increase 10.3 percent and sales volume increase 7.2 percent over the previous year. The volume increase equals a growth of 613,992 barrels. In layman’s terms, that’s roughly 1.3 million kegs.
According to the Brewers Association, last year craft brewers represented 4.3 percent of volume and 6.9 percent of retail dollars for the total U.S. beer category. With the total U.S. beer industry representing an estimated retail dollar value of $101 billion, the Brewers Association estimates the actual dollar sales figure from craft brewers in 2009 was $6.98 billion, up from $6.3 billion in 2008.
Craft beer growth in Washington
Nationwide, the total number of craft brewers grew from 1,485 to 1,542 in 2009. In Washington we saw the emergence of 13 new breweries in 2009. We also saw two Washington breweries close (Gilligan’s Brewing and Cashmere Brewing). Our listing of Washington breweries and brewpubs currently has the count at 114. You can see the complete listings on our Washington Breweries and Brewpubs page. By all indications the beer drinking public continues to warm up to the idea of better beer, both locally and nationally.
“Beer lovers continue to find great value and enjoyment in fuller flavored craft beers,” said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. “Americans have an increasing appreciation of craft beers, and the growing number of brewers behind them. They’re eager to try the latest seasonal release and to sample a variety of beers from different breweries.”
Another example of the increased enthusiasm for local craft beer is the growing popularity of beer-related events. Our Washington Beer Events Calendar has become increasingly crowded with more and more events. It seems that every week features an irresistible beer event and each month some new beer festival. This May, Seattle will officially celebrate the second annual Seattle Beer Week, which is basically ten days cram-packed with great beer events across the entire city.
Not just more frequent, but beer events are becoming more popular. For example, on Wednesday, March, 24th Ray’s Cafe (Ray’s Boathouse) will host a special brewers dinner that will showcase some of Washington’s newest craft beers paired with Ray’s finest foods. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Sorry, the event is sold out and has been for a month. April’s Hops & Props fundraiser/beer festival at the Museum of Flight sold out weeks ago.
The Washington Beer Commission continues to add new beer festivals and other beer-related events. In general, these events are drawing increasingly large crowds. Washington’s first Belgianfest, which took place in January, sold out both sessions and was wildly popular. Both sessions of this weekend’s Washington Cask Beer Festival are sold out, as well. Cask-conditioned beer and Belgian-style beer are not for the faint of heart and tend to appeal to only the most serious craft beer enthusiasts. The first-ever Tacoma Craft Beer Festival, which took place in October, was also insanely popular.
This is not going unnoticed
The larger food and beverage industry is aware of the public’s growing fondness for craft beer. For example, a recent National Restaurant Association Chef Survey cited “locally-produced wine and beer” among its top five overall trends to watch for in 2010. According to the survey, 64 percent of America’s top chefs cited “organic beer” as a hot trend and 62 percent cited “craft beer/microbrew” as a hot trend. In the alcohol and cocktails category, the organization ranked “locally-produced wine and beer” as its top trend, while “food-beer pairings” came in at number five on the list.
The uptick in the public’s interest in craft beer has not gone unnoticed by the large, non-craft breweries. For years craft beer purist have endured the large breweries’ shallow attempts to wedge their way into the craft beer market by producing pseudo craft beer. The trend continues.
Brewing giant MillerCoors LLC recently announced plans to test-market a new beer called Batch 19, which is based on a pre-Prohibition recipe (the beer’s name pays homage to the year 1919, when prohibition became law). The company freely admits Batch 19 is just one of its many initiatives aimed at rejuvenating sales in the sluggish U.S. market. Peter Swinburn, chief executive of Molson Coors Brewing Co., recently told the Wall Street Journal that Batch 19 is designed to attract consumers looking for “a true, authentic, original beer.”
Last year Anheuser-Busch introduced Bud Light Golden Wheat in an obvious attempt to capture the attention of those light beer drinkers finding themselves tempted by craft beer. The Washington Beer Blog took one for the team and sampled this beer so that you wouldn’t have to. Read our review.
Profile of the U.S. brewery scene
There are almost 1,600 breweries in the U.S. The vast majority of them are craft breweries.
|Type of Brewery||Count
|Large, non-craft breweries||20|
|Regional craft breweries||68|
Definitions and numbers provided by the Brewers Association.
More statistics on the craft brewing industry are available from the updated 2009 Craft Beer Industry Statistics on the Brewers Association Web site. A more extensive analysis will be released on April 8, 2010 during the Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago. The Brewers Association’s full 2009 industry analysis, which shows regional trends and sales by individual brewery, will be published in the May/June 2010 issue of The New Brewer.