April 11, 2018 – We keep seeing stories about the craft beer revolution being over or on life support, but a report published two weeks ago by the Brewers Association shows that small and independent craft brewers are still on a growth trajectory. In 2017 they represented 13 percent market share by volume and 23.4 percent in retail dollar value. The total beer market is estimated to be worth $26 billion at retail.
Craft beer growth has been extraordinary considering that in 2010 it was just 5 percent of the market. As the category matures, it is normal for growth to slow a bit. The Brewers Association report says that in 2017 the number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew 16 percent, totaling 6,372 breweries. Of that 3,812 are microbreweries, 2,252 brewpubs, 202 regional craft breweries and 106 large or otherwise non-craft brewers. We remember marveling when craft breweries reached 3,000 operations.
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.
Additionally, craft beer export volume increased by 3.6 percent in 2017, now totaling 482,309 barrels and valued at $125.4 million.
Based on all these stats we fail to see how certain writers can conclude that the froth is flat for craft beer. Competition from wine and spirits has affected the entire beer category which lost 1 percent by volume in 2017, and there’s been a ton of news about the woes of the Industrial sized brewers (leading them to gobble up craft breweries at a jaw-dropping rate). Despite the crowded field, competition among independent brewers for shelf space and taps in pubs, not to mention restrictive distribution practices employed by the major breweries, independent entrepreneurs battle on to make their dreams come true. Here’s cheers to them!