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Craft Beer Breaks The 5% Pint Glass Ceiling

Wow, the Brewers Association just released their annual data on U.S. craft brewing, for calendar year 2011, and the news is remarkable. “Craft brewers saw volume rise 13 percent, with a 15 percent increase in retail sales from 2010 to 2011, representing a total barrel increase of 1.3 million.”

From the press release:

In 2011, craft brewers represented 5.68 percent of volume of the U.S. beer market, up from 4.97 in 2010, with production reaching 11,468,152 barrels. Additionally, the BA estimates the actual dollar sales figure from craft brewers in 2011 was $8.7 billion, up from $7.6 billion in 2010. Increased retails sales represented 9.1 percent of the $95.5 million dollar U.S. beer market.

“While the overall beer market experienced a 1.32 percent volume decrease in 2011, craft brewing saw significant growth, surpassing five percent total market volume share for the first time,” said Paul Gatza, director, Brewers Association. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that with the variety of styles and flavors to choose from, Americans are developing a strong taste for high-quality, small-batch beer from independent brewers.”

Some other interesting tidbits gleaned from the news. The total number of U.S. breweries now stands at 1,989, just 11 shy of reaching 2,000. Of those, 1,938 are considered by the BA’s definition to be craft breweries. Small breweries accounted for over 103,000 jobs. But just wow: 13.2%! That’s the biggest volume increase that I can remember. And that’s an especially grand number since for the same period, total beer market volume declined. By dollars, craft beer rose a staggering 15% to 9.1% of the total market, getting us ever closer to the elusive, but often-talked about, 10% goal that many feel would be a watershed moment for craft beer.

More from the release:

With 250 brewery openings and only 37 closings, the BA also reported that 1,989 breweries were operating in the U.S. in 2011—an 11 percent increase from the previous year. Small brewers employed approximately 103,585 workers in the U.S in 2011.

“We saw rapid growth in brewery openings last year, particularly with microbrewery start-ups, and these numbers are poised to rise even more in 2012,” added Gatza. “In February 2012, we already topped 2,000 operating breweries—a truly remarkable milestone. We look forward to even more success and the continued expansion of the craft beer market.”

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