Industry Research: Small & Independent Brewers Continue to Grow
The Brewers Association (BA) is the trade association that represents small and independent American craft brewers. According to the BA, an American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional. Small meaning that their annual production totals 6 million barrels of beer or less, which accounts for approximately 3% of US annual sales, and beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Independent is defined as less than 25% of the craft brewery being owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. And traditional equals a brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Recently, the BA released their 2015 data on US craft brewing  growth.
With more breweries than ever before, small and independent craft brewers now represent 12% market share of the overall beer industry.
In 2015, craft brewers produced 24.5 million barrels, and saw a 13% rise in volume  and a 16% increase in retail dollar value.
Retail dollar value was estimated at $22.3 billion, representing 21 percent market share.
“For the past decade, craft brewers have charged into the market, seeing double digit growth for eight of those years,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “There are still a lot of opportunities and areas for additional growth. An important focus will remain on quality as small and independent brewers continue to lead the local, full-flavored beer movement.”
Additionally, in 2015 the number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew 15 percent, totaling 4,269 breweries—the most at any time in American history. Small and independent breweries account for 99% of the breweries in operation, broken down as follows: 2,397 microbreweries, 1,650 brewpubs and 178 regional craft breweries.
Throughout the year, there were 620 new brewery openings and only 68 closings. One of the fastest growing regions was the South, where 4 states—Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Texas—each saw a net increase of more than 20 breweries, establishing a strong base for future growth in the region.
Combined with already existing and established breweries and brewpubs, craft brewers provided nearly 122,000 jobs, an increase of over 6,000 from the previous year.
“Small and independent brewers are a beacon for beer and our economy,” added Watson. “As breweries continue to open and volume increases, there is a strong need for workers to fill a whole host of positions at these small and growing businesses.”
Note: Numbers are preliminary. The Brewers Association will release the list of Top 50 craft brewing companies and overall brewing companies by volume sales on April 5. Additionally, a more extensive analysis will be released during the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® in Philadelphia from May 3-6. The full 2015 industry analysis will be published in the May/June 2016 issue of The New Brewer, highlighting regional trends and production by individual breweries.
To see the Brewers Association infographic in its entirety, click here.
1 Absolute figures reflect the dynamic craft brewer data set as specified by the craft brewer definition. Growth numbers are presented on a comparable base. For full methodology, see the Brewers Association website.
2 Volume by craft brewers represent total taxable production.