The first half of 2016 saw American craft beer production increase eight percent, according to data from the Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade association devoted to independent American brewers. It sounds like a decent number, but it’s also a troubling one: Craft beer growth had been holding fairly steady at around 12-16 percent by volume in recent years. This new number represents that this growth may finally be slowing.
“Yet there is still tremendous dynamism reflected in eight percent growth for craft,” said Bart Watson, chief economist of Brewers Association in a press release. “Production growth of small and independent craft brewers continues to be one of the main bright spots for domestic beer in the U.S. Even in a more competitive market, for the vast majority of small and independent brewers, opportunities still exist.”
Watson’s statements reflect two aspects of the data. Firstly, sales are down for some of the country’s larger regional craft breweries—including stalwarts such as Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer Co. and New Belgium. Growth is more bullish among smaller local and nanobrewers, scores of which are still opening every month.
By June 30 last year, 3,739 breweries were operating in the U.S. This year, that number increased to 4,656. There are also more than 2,000 breweries in the planning stages currently. One has to be thankful for all of the variety, while now cautiously wondering how much more growth the market will support.
But for now, we raise our glasses of craft beer to you, independent brewers. Cheers.