The Brewers Association, the trade organization for the American craft beer industry, recently published its mid-year report, sort of a State of the Union address for anyone who manufactures, sells or just enjoys the finest beers in the country. And, unlike pretty much everything happening in America currently, this report gives us plenty to feel optimistic about.
As of the end of June, there were 5,562 breweries operating in the United States. That's an all-time high, up about 900 from that point in 2016, or 16 percent. Just since December, 557 breweries have opened. The association also reports that another 2,739 breweries are planning to open in the near future. Also, the industry employs nearly 129,000 full- and part-time workers nationwide.
The rampant growth of the past few years, however, has abated slightly. Volume is up 5 percent over the end of the year, compared to 8 percent growth in 2016.
"The growth pace for small and independent brewers has stabilized at a rate that still reflects progress but in a more mature market," said Bart Watson, chief economist for the association. "The beer world is highly competitive and there is certainly a mixed bag in terms of performance. Some breweries are continuing to grow, whereas others are having to evolve their position and nurture new opportunities to ensure they keep pace. Many brewers are benefiting from on-premises and taproom sales, and recent state-based reforms have the potential to help brewers in new regions capitalize on this growth."
For the purposes of its data, the association defines a craft brewery as "small" (annual production of 6 million barrels or less), "independent" (less than 25 percent of the operation is owned/controlled by an industry participant that is not itself a craft brewer) and "traditional" (does majority of its total volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation).