Money & Business

Report: The Craft Beer Industry's Big Year

By Ernie Smith / Mar 20, 2013 (Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

The Brewers Association finds that this segment grew at a much quicker rate than the rest of the beer industry.

The next time you take a sip of a frosty craft brew, take a second to think about how you just gave a $10 billion industry a small jolt.

These small breweries are doing great things for their local communities, the greater community of craft brewers, our food arts culture, and the overall economy.

That’s right: According to the Brewers Association, the trade group backing small independent brewers, these producers aren’t so small after all, putting out a grand total of 13,235,917 barrels last year.

More details, and a graphic, below:

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Hitting double digits: Among the key news in the association’s report? The industry made a significant jump in 2012, with a 17 percent rise in retail dollar value to $10.2 billion, and a 10.2 percent share of the $99 billion beer industry. On top of this, overall volume jumped by 15 percent, and the number of operational breweries rose by 18 percent.

And still growing: Even with 2012′s success, the group anticipates more growth this year. “On average, we are seeing slightly more than one craft brewery per day opening somewhere in the U.S., and we anticipate even more in the coming year. There is clearly a thirst in the marketplace for craft-brewed beer, as indicated by the continued growth year after year,” said the association’s director, Paul Gatza, in a news release. “These small breweries are doing great things for their local communities, the greater community of craft brewers, our food arts culture, and the overall economy.”

Exceptions to the rule: While the association covered a number of breweries, its relatively strict definition of what makes a “craft” brewery—small, independent, and traditional, selling less than 6 million barrels per year and less than 25 percent owned by another company—left out some well-known brands that people might think of when the term comes up. That means that Yuengling (which is large for an independent brewer), Blue Moon (which is owned by MillerCoors), and several members of the Craft Brew Alliance (including Kona and Redhook) were left out of the study, according to Brewbound.

The competition’s hard knocks: The good news for the craft beer industry comes at a time when one of its largest competitors, Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch InBev, is taking some heat from a class action lawsuit that alleges the company is watering down its beer. While the reports didn’t exactly help the brand’s image in the media, research firm Restaurant Sciences reports that, thus far,  the claims are not affecting sales.

The association plans to offer up more details on the industry’s sales next week, during its Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, DC.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now and a former newspaper guy. More »

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