Craft Beer Continues To Grow

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Craft brewers enjoyed continued growth through the first half of 2014, according to new mid-year data recently released by the Brewers Association, the trade group representing smaller brewers. Craft beer production increased 18 percent by volume during the first half of the year (though the new numbers are based on the revised definition of who is a craft brewer as per the BA, while last year’s numbers were compiled under the old definition). From the press release:

From January through the end of June, around 10.6 million barrels of beer were sold, up from 9.0 million barrels over the first half of 2013. “The sustained double-digit growth of the craft category shows the solidity of demand for fuller flavored beer in a variety of styles from small and independent American producers,” said Bart Watson, chief economist for the BA. “Craft brewers are providing world-class, innovative products that continue to excite beer lovers and energize the industry.”

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As of June 30, 2014, 3,040 breweries were operating in the U.S., 99 percent of which were small and independent craft breweries. Additionally, there were 1,929 breweries in planning. Craft brewers currently employ an estimated 110,273 full-time and part-time workers, many of which are manufacturing jobs, contributing significantly to the U.S. economy.

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The Most Consumed Alcoholic Beverages by Country

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Here’s an interesting chart showing the alcoholic beverage that has the highest consumption in each country of the world, based on data from 2011, as far as I can tell. The data is based on liters of pure alcohol.


via chartsbin.com

Key findings from the report:

  • More than 45% of total recorded alcohol is consumed in the form of spirits, predominantly in the South-East Asia and Western Pacific.
  • Approximately 36% of total recorded alcohol is consumed in the form of beer. Beer consumption is highest in the Region of the Americas.
  • Commonly, high overall consumption levels are found in countries such as the Russian Federation, which display both high beer and high spirits consumption.
  • Consumption of wine as a percentage of total recorded alcohol is globally quite low (8.6%), with significant levels of alcohol consumed in the form of wine in the European Region (26.4%).
  • Beverages other than beer, spirits and wine (e.g. fortified wines, rice wine or other fermented beverages made of sorghum, millet, maize) have the highest share in total recorded consumption in the African Region (48.2%), and in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (31.3%).

Most consumed alcoholic beverages in terms of liters of pure alcohol, which do not necessarily reflect that the overall level of consumption of this alcoholic beverage is high.For example in India, spirits are the most consumed alcoholic beverages, but this does not mean that the consumption level of spirits is high, but that the proportion of total alcohol consumed in the form of spirits is high.

Note:

Beer: includes malt beers.
Wine: includes wine made from grapes.
Spirits: include all distilled beverages.
Other Alcohol: includes one or several other alcoholic beverages, such as fermented beverages made from sorghum, maize, millet, rice, or cider, fruit wine, fortified wine, etc.

Another Milestone: 3,000 Breweries In America

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I know that many people seem tired of celebrating numerical achievements, preferring to concentrate on the beer itself, or the quality of beers, etc., but I think there is something to be said for the continuing rise of the sheer number of breweries in America. It is, I believe, indicative of greater consumer acceptance and a desire for beer drinkers to want to support local producers. It’s true that the growth of the regional, larger breweries are fueling a lot of the marketshare, but with many of the new small breweries catering to a very local customer base, this growth phase we’re in shouldn’t slow down for a least a little while longer.

Yesterday, the Brewers Association announced that the number of breweries in the United States eclipsed 3,000, as of June 2014 stood at 3,040. Here’s more from the BA’s press release:

The American brewing industry reached another milestone at the end of June, with more than 3,000 breweries operating for all or part of the month (3,040 to be precise). Although precise numbers from the 19th century are difficult to confirm, this is likely the first time the United States has crossed the 3,000 brewery barrier since the 1870s. Wieren (1995) notes that the Internal Revenue Department counted 2,830 “ale and lager breweries in operation” in 1880, down from a high point of 4,131 in 1873.

What does 3,000 breweries mean? For one, it represents a return to the localization of beer production, with almost 99% of the 3,040 breweries being small and independent. The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a local brewery, and with almost 2,000 planning breweries in the BA database, that percentage is only going to climb in the coming years.

Secondly, it means that competition continues to increase, and that brewers will need to further differentiate and focus on quality if they are going to succeed in a crowded marketplace. While a national brewery number is fairly irrelevant without understanding local marketplaces, 3,040 breweries could not happen without increased competition in many localities.

What it does not mean is that we’ve reached a saturation point. Most of the new entrants continue to be small and local, operating in neighborhoods or towns. What it means to be a brewery is shifting, back toward an era when breweries were largely local, and operated as a neighborhood bar or restaurant. How many neighborhoods in the country could still stand to gain from a high-quality brewpub or micro taproom? While a return to the per capita ratio of 1873 seems unlikely (that would mean more than 30,000 breweries), the resurgence of American brewing is far from over.

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Beer Outmaneuvering Wine

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Here’s some interesting news from the wine world, h/t to Jenn Litz from Craft Business Daily. Charles Gill, who runs Wine Metrics, which creates “on-premise wine distribution information in the U.S. market.” According to Litz, Gill has been saying lately that he believes that craft beer is taking market share from wine, which is curious, because “trade show rhetoric has often been the exact opposite.”

On Gill’s blog, Wine List USA, he claims that Craft Beer is Outmaneuvering Wine, and lists ten ways in which he believes that’s happening. Here’s his raw list.

  1. Value
  2. Innovation
  3. Promotion
  4. Community
  5. Venues
  6. Cross-Fertilization
  7. New Traditions
  8. Customer Loyalty
  9. Food Compatibility
  10. Gatekeepers

For a better understanding of that list, read his explanations for each one at the source, 10 Ways Craft Beer is Outmaneuvering Wine. I don’t tend to think about wine and beer as an us versus them proposition, but obviously the pie that is all alcohol consumption is divided into wedges of how much is spent on each type. There’s no getting around it. If more people buy beer, something else isn’t doing as well. It’s theoretically possible that the pie is just growing and people are buying more beer, but are not buying less wine, spirits, cider or what have you, but that’s not exactly realistic. If anything, the pie’s been shrinking, sad to say, as people are drinking less overall than they used to.

As to Gill’s list, I definitely agree with Value, Innovation and some of the Community aspects he mentions. And I also think Food Compatibility and most of what he says about New Traditions ring true, but I’m less convinced by the others. Do you agree? Or Disagree? If, so why, and to which ones?

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The Mythical Monolith Of Big Alcohol

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Since the end of February, Alcohol Justice (AJ) has been tweeting the following:

Big Alcohol will never admit #3 http://bit.ly/1mFY39E Alcohol classified carcinogenic 25 years ago

It’s part of their new series of things that “Big Alcohol will never admit.” I think somebody forgot to tell AJ that there’s no actual organization “Big Alcohol,” no single entity that speaks with one voice on all matters alcoholic.

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The mythical monolith of “Big Alcohol” that doesn’t actually exist, but which Alcohol Justice believes should respond to their propaganda demands.

But let’s take a look at what we’re accused of this time. According to AJ, 25 years ago Alcohol was classified as a “carcinogenic.” That tidbit comes from their Alcohol and Cancer Risk “fact sheet” which states. “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified beverage alcohol as a Group 1 (cancerous to humans) carcinogen since 1988.” That statement is footnoted by two studies. The first is the IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans VOLUME 96 Alcohol Consumption and Ethyl Carbamate and the second is Volume 100E A Review of Human Carcinogens: Personal Habits and Indoor Combustions (2012). And those two documents do indeed state that they “concluded that there was sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity for cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver.” But is that the whole story? Hardly. Since that time, they’ve added colorectal and female breast cancer for a total of seven types of cancer, out of how many different types? Dozens? Hundreds? And for at least a few of those, moderate alcohol consumption reduces risk and for most of the rest is neutral, meaning there’s little or no effect. But AJ also claims that “Big Alcohol” has been somehow denying this for the past 26 years. How exactly has anyone been denying it?

But another questionable exaggeration is this, from AJ’s press release of February 26 of this year, where they attempt to take a position that the moderate consumption of alcohol is also unsafe.

While heavy drinking presents the greatest risk, daily alcohol consumption of as little as 1.5 drinks accounts for up to 35% of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in the United States. Added [Director of Research Sarah] Mart, “The research is clear: There is no determined safe limit for alcohol consumption with regard to cancer risk.”

But that’s at least a little misleading. That claim comes from a 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health entitled Alcohol-Attributable Cancer Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost in the United States. Here’s the relevant bit from the results, in the abstract.

Alcohol consumption resulted in an estimated 18,200 to 21,300 cancer deaths, or 3.2% to 3.7% of all US cancer deaths. The majority of alcohol-attributable female cancer deaths were from breast cancer (56% to 66%), whereas upper airway and esophageal cancer deaths were more common among men (53% to 71%). Alcohol-attributable cancers resulted in 17.0 to 19.1 YPLL for each death. Daily consumption of up to 20 grams of alcohol (≤ 1.5 drinks) accounted for 26% to 35% of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths.

Although they exaggerated the findings by saying “Up to 35%” instead of “26% to 35%,” which is a typical propaganda tactic, what that one study really found is that 26% to 35% of 3.2% to 3.7% of all US cancer deaths may have come from moderate drinking. Put another way, 0.83% to 1.295% of all U.S. cancers may be attributable to people who drank moderately. From that, AJ concludes that “The research is clear: There is no determined safe limit for alcohol consumption with regard to cancer risk.” If you think that’s clear, keep making those donations, because it makes no logical sense. Less than 1% of all cancer deaths up to as many as 1.3% may be attributable to moderate alcohol consumption, and that constitutes clear causation, ignoring all other factors, such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle.

The study itself claims that there’s “no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk” despite it representing only around one percent of all cancers in the United States. Not to mention, when you dig deeper into the data, that particular study is only examining six types of cancer. They ignore all other cancers, while still making sweeping pronouncements about cancer, and ignoring any mitigating benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, including the rather hard-to-ignore total mortality.

Here’s what I don’t understand about calling alcohol a carcinogen. If indeed it increases the risk for certain types of cancers, but not others, it seems to me it would have to increase the risk to all persons (or even most) for all cancers to be considered to show “sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of alcohol consumption.” My sense in reading through WHO literature over the years is that their mission is more about stopping people from drinking because as an organization they’re convinced that alcohol is always bad and has no positive aspects or benefits. When you only look for negative consequences, that’s all you find.

What AJ, WHO and many of these studies do is start with a premise and try to prove it, ending up cherry-picking the studies that support it and ignoring any that don’t. That creates a powerful propaganda tool but rarely stands up to any scrutiny. Luckily, as prohibitionist groups are well aware, few subject their propaganda masquerading as press releases to much, if any, scrutiny whatsoever. So their incentive to be more truthful is practically nil. So they can just make up whatever they want, like the mythical monolith of Big Alcohol, and then wonder why they won’t admit whatever prohibitionists says, no matter how twisted or distorted.

Beverage Industry’s State Of American Beer Report

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The Atlantic magazine had a good round-up of the State of American Beer, based on a report from the trade publication Beverage Industry. Beverage Industry’s March issue had a series of articles on different segments, including Craft brewers’ sales growth continues, Domestic beer case sales decline, Mexican beers dominate imported beer growth and Hard cider draws in consumers from outside the beer category. In addition, at the same time they released a separate report, the 2014 U.S. Beer Category Report.

You could spend the time to read through all of them (and I’d encourage you to do so) but to get an overview of the reports, The Atlantic’s coverage provides the highlights (and even does a better job with the charts). For example, here’s the top craft brands from 2013.

top-craft-beers-2013

And here’s case sales by brand in a piechart.

top-craft-beers-cases-2013

And this last one, the percentage change in case sales, is amazing because is shows just how fast Lagunitas is growing, though Stone’s doing pretty well on the growth front, too.

top-craft-beers-cases-change-2013

Top 50 Breweries For 2013

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The Brewers Association has also just announced the top 50 breweries in the U.S. based on sales, by volume, for 2013. This includes all breweries, regardless of size or other parameters. Here is the new list:
ba-top-50-breweries-2013

Here is this year’s press release.

Not too much movement again this year, except for a few small shufflings, and no changes at all in the top ten. Only three new breweries made the list; Ballast Point, Narragansett (which had been on the year before in 2011) and Left Hand Brewing.

For the past six years, I’ve also posted an annotated list, showing the changes in each brewery’s rank from year to year. This year, the BA thoughtfully has already done that, saving me a lot of time and math. If you want to see the previous annotated lists for comparison, here is 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Top 50 Craft Breweries For 2013

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The Brewers Association just announced the top 50 craft breweries in the U.S. based on sales, by volume, for 2013, which is listed below here. For the seventh year, they’ve also released a list of the top 50 breweries, which includes all breweries. Here is this year’s craft brewery list:
ba-top-50-craft-2013-revised

Three breweries are new to this year’s Top 50 Craft Breweries list; Sixpoint Brewing, Gordon Biersch (the production brewery, not the brewpubs) and 21st Amendment Brewery & Restaurant. Here is this year’s press release. For the past six years, I’ve also posted an annotated list, showing the changes in each brewery’s rank from year to year. This year, the BA thoughtfully has already done that, saving me a lot of time and math.

New Study Reveals We Can Identify One Trillion Distinct Smells

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A new story in the Washington Post’s Health, Science & Environment section, entitled Human nose can detect at least 1 trillion odors — far more than thought, says study of smell, appears to upend conventional wisdom about the number of smells that humans can identify. The general number has been around 10,000 as long as I can remember. By contrast, we can see “a few million different colors” and our ears can take in around 340,000 different tones. So while smell used to be a lot farther down on the sensory spectrum, this study would appear to rocket our sense of smell to the front of the line. For beer lovers, that can’t be a surprise, because our nose conveys so much more about a beer than seeing or hearing it can, and not even tasting it comes close, as any person who’s had a head cold can tell you, after trying to taste a beer without a working sense of smell.

The study itself, Humans Can Discriminate More than 1 Trillion Olfactory Stimuli, will be published in the journal Science. Here’s the abstract:

Humans can discriminate several million different colors and almost half a million different tones, but the number of discriminable olfactory stimuli remains unknown. The lay and scientific literature typically claims that humans can discriminate 10,000 odors, but this number has never been empirically validated. We determined the resolution of the human sense of smell by testing the capacity of humans to discriminate odor mixtures with varying numbers of shared components. On the basis of the results of psychophysical testing, we calculated that humans can discriminate at least 1 trillion olfactory stimuli. This is far more than previous estimates of distinguishable olfactory stimuli. It demonstrates that the human olfactory system, with its hundreds of different olfactory receptors, far outperforms the other senses in the number of physically different stimuli it can discriminate.

It will be very interesting to see if further studies corroborate this finding, but frankly it makes a lot of sense (no pun intended).

Science also has a short interview with Andreas Keller, one of the scientists who worked on the study, where he explains some of the reasons his team thinks that their study has shown we’re capable of so many more aromas than previously thought.

Craft Beer Growth Continues Rapid Acceleration In 2013

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The Brewers Association today released the preliminary numbers for beer sales last year. I thought last years numbers were great, but the 2013 numbers look unbelievable, and accelerate the momentum for craft beer. The preliminary numbers indicate that “craft brewers saw an 18 percent rise in volume, representing a total of 15.6 million barrels, and a 20 percent increase in retail dollar value.”

Here’s more on the news, from the press release:

In 2013, craft brewers reached 7.8 percent volume of the total U.S. beer market, up from 6.5 percent the previous year. Additionally, craft dollar share of the total U.S. beer market reached 14.3 percent in 2013, as retail dollar value from craft brewers was estimated at $14.3 billion, up from $11.9 billion in 2012.

As for the runaway brewery count, the number of breweries races closer to 3,000.

The number of operating breweries in the U.S. in 2013 totaled 2,822, with 2,768 of those considered craft, demonstrating that craft breweries make up 98 percent of all U.S. operating breweries. This count includes 413 new brewery openings and 44 closings. Combined with already existing and established breweries and brewpubs, craft brewers provided 110,273 jobs, an increase of almost 2,000 from the previous year.

And here’s all of that good news, fermented into a colorful infographic.

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