While many have debated and predicted that the craft beer bubble is on the verge of bursting, new data show that the industry overall continues to flourish. The Brewers Association, which represents the country’s small and independent beer makers, released 2017 data on U.S. craft brewing1 growth at the Craft Brewers Conference this spring in Nashville, Tenn. With more than 6,300 breweries operating during the year, small and independent craft brewers represented 12.7 percent market share by volume of the overall beer industry.
In 2017, craft brewers produced 25.4 million barrels and saw a 5 percent rise in volume2 on a comparable base as well as an 8 percent increase in retail dollar value. Retail dollar value was estimated at 26 billion, representing 23.4 percent market share. Microbreweries and brewpubs delivered 76 percent of the craft brewer boost. Craft brewing’s growth occurred in the context of a total beer market, which dropped 1 percent by volume in 2017.
“Growth for the craft brewing industry is adapting to the new realities of a mature market landscape,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “Beer lovers are trending toward supporting their local small and independent community craft breweries. At the same time, as distribution channels experience increased competition and challenges, craft brewer performance was more mixed than in recent years, with those relying on the broadest distribution facing the most pressure.”
Additionally, in 2017 the number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew 16 percent, totaling 6,372 breweries, broken down as follows: 3,812 microbreweries, 2,252 brewpubs, 202 regional craft breweries and 106 large or otherwise non-craft brewers. Small and independent breweries account for 98 percent of the breweries in operation. Throughout the year, there were 997 new brewery openings and only 165 closings — a closing rate of just 2.6 percent. Combined with already existing and established breweries and brewpubs, craft brewers provided more than 135,000 jobs, an increase of greater than 6,000 from the previous year.
“Beer lovers want to support businesses that align with their values and are having a positive impact on their local communities and our larger society,” added Watson. “That’s what small and independent craft brewers are all about. The ability to seek beers from small and independent producers matters.”
In 2017, here’s where the data came from:
• 73 percent of the volume was reported through the Beer Industry Production Survey.
•7 percent of the remaining volume was filled in using state excise tax data.
Of the remaining 20 percent of volume:
• More the 40 percent of that 20 percent comes from our estimate of Boston Beer’s beer volume (who as a public company can’t report).
• The remainder of the estimated volume (about 10 percent of the total craft data set) comes from staff estimates (taken from scan data, media reports and other sources).
• Breweries whose numbers were taken from state reports or estimated by staff grew <1 percent. Reported growth by volume was nearly 7 percent.
To educate beer lovers about which beers are independently produced, the BA launched the certified independent seal in June 2017. More than 3,100 independent brewers have committed to adopting it. •