USA TODAY6:53 p.m. EDT August 2, 2015
The odds that your next round will be a craft beer continues to increase.
That's because craft breweries across the U.S. produced 16% more beer during the first six months of 2015, according to data released last week by the Brewers Association, the trade group that represents small, independent brewers.
About 12.2 million barrels were produced and sold from January-June 2015, up 15% from 10.6 million barrels during the first half of 2014, the association said.
A Brewers Association graphic showing craft beer production mid-year 2011-2015. (Photo: Brewers Association)
Some of that gain comes from D.G. Yuengling & Son's addition to the craft beer ranks after the association dropped its prohibition of corn as a beer ingredient, which the brewery uses. But it is the continued expansion of small and regional breweries that is the biggest factor, says Eric Schmidt of food industry tracking and consulting firm Technomic.
"Overall, the number of new breweries has advanced markedly and they are the ones responsible for the lion’s share of the growth," he said. "The older craft beers have ceded volume although they continue to grow albeit at slower growth rates. Overall the bright spots of the industry continue to be imports, specifically Mexico and craft category. The larger domestic categories continue to decline which is leading the industry towards a year in the red for ’15."
Consumer spending on beer is expected to increase as much as 2% to about $97 billion, Technomic estimates, but total beer volume sold will likely drop about 0.4%.
While craft beer production increased 11% in the second quarter of 2015, the firm says that production of domestic mainstream beer (such as Budweiser and Coors) fell 2.5% and that of domestic light (Lite, Bud Light) dropped 3.5%.
As big beer sales drop, their international parent companies may look to snatch up more craft breweries. "I think with a lot of the growth coming from craft, big brewers will continue to look at craft brewers to help bolster their portfolios," Schmidt said.
In recent years, Budweiser parent company AB InBev acquired Goose Island Beer Co. of Chicago (2011) and Blue Point Brewing of Patchogue,, N.Y. (2014) and Elysian Brewing Co. of Seattle (2015).
Still, new small breweries and brewpubs continue to open. At the end of June, there were 3,739 breweries in the U.S., the Brewers Association said. That's 699 more than at the same time last year and there are 1,755 additional breweries in planning.
At that rate, the number of U.S. breweries could hit a record high in the coming months, topping the 4,131 breweries open back in 1873.
“More and more Americans are discovering the joys of enjoying fresh beer produced by their neighborhood brewery," said Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, in a statement accompanying the report. "By supporting local, small and independent craft breweries, beer lovers are gradually returning the United States to the system of localized beer production that existed for much of our nation’s history."
A Brewers Association graphic showing the number of craft breweries in operation 2011-2015. (Photo: Brewers Association)
Next Round will take a regular look at new and recently released craft beers. And if there's one on your radar, or if you have suggestions or questions, contact Mike Snider via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.