Data released yesterday by the Brewers Association shows that the USA now supports 3,040 breweries, 99 percent of which are craft breweries. That is, small and independent breweries that meet the Brewers Association definition of craft brewery. Another 1,900 breweries are currently in planning. The craft beer industry in America is now responsible for more than 100,000 jobs.
Is this brewery growth rate sustainable? Perhaps. Is the craft beer marketplace already too crowded? Apparently not. In the first half of 2014, craft beer sales rose by an astonishing 18 percent compared to the same period in 2013. The number of breweries is rising, true, but so is the nation’s appetite for craft beer. At this time, the growth of one is sustained by the other.
In Washington, where we have 240-ish breweries and craft beer’s popularity is nothing new, sometimes it is easy to believe that we are in the middle of a bubble that is about to burst, or that a thinning of the herd is inevitable. Those things may or may not be true. Regardless, we need to look at it in a larger context and remember that there are still regions of the USA just now getting turned on to craft beer. There are states far more populous than Washington that only have a handful of breweries, regions far more populous than the Pacific Northwest that drink far less craft beer, and that’s where there is still room for remarkable growth. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but this whole beer thing seems to be catching on and I like to think there is still room for growth even in well-developed craft beer markets like ours.
As long as all these new breweries are good, I think we’ll be okay for awhile. Good beer begets good beer.
Here is the press release from the Brewers Association:
Brewers Association Reports Sustained Growth for Craft
Small and independent brewers see increase in first half of 2014
Boulder, CO • July 28, 2014—Small and independent craft brewers enjoyed continued growth in the first half of 2014, according to new mid-year data released by the Brewers Association (BA), the not-for-profit trade association that represents the majority of U.S. breweries. American craft beer production volume increased 18 percent during the first half of the year.
From January through the end of June 2014, approximately 10.6 million barrels of beer were sold by craft brewers, up from 9.0 million barrels over the first half of 2013. (Note: The 18 percent growth rate is based on the updated craft brewer definition* and derived from comparable barrel total from the first half of 2013. Mid-year figures first reported in 2013 were based on the previous craft brewer definition).
“The sustained double-digit growth of the craft category shows the solidity of demand for fuller flavored beer in a variety of styles from small and independent American producers,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “Craft brewers are providing world-class, innovative products that continue to excite beer lovers and energize the industry.”
As of June 30, 2014, 3,040 breweries were operating in the U.S., 99 percent of which were small and independent craft breweries. Additionally, there were 1,929 breweries in planning. Craft brewers currently employ an estimated 110,273 full-time and part-time workers, many of which are manufacturing jobs, contributing significantly to the U.S. economy.
“Coupled with the continued rise in the number of breweries, the market growth of craft brewers highlights the ongoing localization of beer production in the United States,” added Watson. “More and more, people are enjoying the products from America’s small and independent brewers, making this country a true destination for beer.”
Note: In February 2014, the Brewers Association Board of Directors approved changes to the craft brewer definition that go into effect with the 2014 craft brewing data set.
* An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional. Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. Traditional: A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.