Living in a city like San Diego, the growth in popularity for craft beer may seem quite apparent, but new numbers released by the Brewers Association on Monday show that the industry is doing quite well on the whole. While recent announcements about consolidation, financial partnership and outright purchase by larger conglomerates have dominated trade headlines in recent weeks, this midyear analysis speaks both to the desire by entrepreneurs to enter the field, and consumer thirst for their offerings.
According to the Brewers Association –a nonprofit organization that serves as a trade organization for independent American brewers— sales of craft beer during the first six months of 2015 totaled 12.2 million barrels versus 10.6 million during the same time period in 2014. What’s driving the continued increase in sales? Industry officials believe they know the answer.
“More and more Americans are discovering the joys of enjoying fresh beer produced by their neighborhood brewery,” said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association. “By supporting local, small and independent craft breweries, beer lovers are gradually returning the United States to the system of localized beer production that existed for much of our nation’s history.”
Not only are Americans buying more craft beer, but the number of people getting into the industry continues to skyrocket. As of June 30, there are 3,739 breweries operating in the United States, which is 699 more than the same date in 2014, and nearly 2,000 more than the 1,776 reported by the Brewers Association in 2011. On the jobs front, American breweries employ 115,469 workers. While such growth is generally understood to be a positive thing for the community, but officials caution a certain level of responsibility for those choosing to enter the sector.
“Industry growth is occurring in all regions and stemming from a mix of sources including various retail settings and a variety of unique brewery business models,” Watson added. “The continued growth of small and independent brewers illustrates that additional market opportunities and demand are prevalent, although competition in the sector is certainly growing and the need for brewers to differentiate and produce world class high quality beer is more important than ever.”
While the growth shown in 2015 may seem impressive, the future looks even brighter for the craft beer industry. In addition to the number of breweries currently operating in the United States, there are currently 1,755 that are in some stage of planning or development. With such an uptick in professional brewing operations, and plenty more on the way, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before there’s a local brewery to serve every community.