Cheers! Craft beer hits a new milestone

This stock is up every St. Patrick's Day
This stock is up every St. Patrick's Day   

Chalk up another milestone for the American craft beer industry.

According to the Brewers Association, craft brewers reached 11 percent volume share in 2014, marking the first time they've reached a double-digit share of the marketplace.

That's up from 7.8 percent market share the previous year, with the category likely seeing a boost from the trade group's decision to expand the definition of a small or craft brewer.

It defines craft brewers as small, meaning they produce volume of about 3 percent of U.S. annual sales; independent, or less than 25 percent owned or controlled by a noncraft brewer; and traditional, meaning the majority of its alcohol volume comes from beer with traditional ingredients.

Cans of lager are filled at the Yuengling brewery in Pottsville, Pa.
Mike Mergen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Cans of lager are filled at the Yuengling brewery in Pottsville, Pa.

According to the data released Monday, craft brewers produced 22.2 million barrels last year, representing an 18 percent increase in volume. They also saw a 22 percent rise in retail dollar value in 2014, coming in at an estimated $19.6 billion and accounting for 19.3 percent of the market.

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"With the total beer market up only 0.5 percent in 2014, craft brewers are key in keeping the overall industry innovative and growing" said Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, in a statement.

Hitting double-digit volume share is a key first step to the association's lofty goal of achieving 20 percent market share of the beer market by volume by 2020.

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That goal is believed to be part of the reason why the trade group rewrote the rules as to what counts as a craft brewery, thereby opening the doors for high-volume label Yuengling and its nearly 3 million barrels a year as well as a handful of others that were previously excluded.

The data also revealed that the total number breweries in operation continues to skyrocket. The Brewers Association reported the total number of operating breweries grew 19 percent, totaling 3,464 breweries in the U.S., in 2014. Openings far outpaced closures, with 615 new brewery openings and only 46 closings.

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