Craft Beer Industry Continues To Surge

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Any way you look at it, the growth of the craft beer industry continues unabated.

The Brewers Association, the trade association representing small and independent brewers, has released its full 2011 data and the numbers, as usual, are striking.

Craft brewers saw a 15 percent increase in retail sales and a volume increase of 13 percent in 2011, for a total barrel increase of 1.3 million. The Brewers Association estimates the actual dollar sales figure from craft brewers in 2011 was $8.7 billion, up from $7.6 billion in 2010.

“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.”

While the craft beer segment is still a small portion of the overall beer market, it has shown steady growth the past few years. In 2011, craft brewers represented 5.68 percent of volume of the U.S. beer market, up from 4.97 percent in 2010.

The steady growth is leading more entrepreneurs to take the craft beer plunge. The Brewers Association counted 1,989 breweries in operation at the end of 2011, an increase of 11 percent. The BA estimates that small brewers employed about 103,585 workers in the U.S in 2011 and more breweries are coming online each month.

“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,” said Gatza. “In February 2012, we already topped 2,000 operating breweries — a truly remarkable milestone.”

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