The number of operating breweries in the United States grew 16% in 2017 and smaller breweries generally fared better than large ones. Total beer sales declined 1% for the year, while craft (as defined by the Brewers Association) beer sales grew 5%. Microbreweries, meaning ones that made 15,000 barrels or less, and brewpubs deliver 76% of craft growth.
“Growth for the craft brewing industry is adapting to the new realities of a mature market landscape,” Brewers Association economist Bart Watson said in a press release announcing the 2017 statistics. “Beer lovers are trending toward supporting their local small and independent community craft breweries. At the same time, as distribution channels experience increased competition and challenges, craft brewer performance was more mixed than in recent years, with those relying on the broadest distribution facing the most pressure.”
Small and independent breweries account for 98% of the breweries in operation. They exemplify what has become known as “the long tail.” In fact, the smallest 75% of breweries make less than 1% of the beer.
“Beer lovers want to support businesses that align with their values and are having a positive impact on their local communities and our larger society,” added Watson. “That’s what small and independent craft brewers are all about. The ability to seek beers from small and independent producers matters.”
Craft breweries produced 25.4 million barrels in 2017 and the value of retail sales grew 8% to and estimated $26.0 billion, representing 23.4% market share.
Breweries continue to open at a faster rate than the market is growing, with 997 new operatins in 2017. About 2.6%, or 165, of breweries closed, but Watson warned that number may increase along with growing competition. “It’s hard to know what a long term rate may be,” he said in a conference call
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has awarded grants totaling $704,985 to 13 projects to increase the production of Pennsylvania-made malt and brewed beverages and enhance the Pennsylvania beer industry through promotion, marketing, and research-based programs and projects.
“Brewing beer is an important industry to Pennsylvania’s economy that is growing,” Governor Tom Wolf said in a press release announcing the awards. “These grants build on the bipartisan efforts to modernize our beer laws and support the industry to create job opportunities from the farm to the brewery, pub and grocery store.”
The projects include:
– $127,500 for “Pennsylvania Pursue Your Hoppiness,” which will identify “beer trails” where tourists can visit multiple regional microbreweries, and to develop a statewide “brand identity” for the state’s breweries.
– $136,154 to Penn State for two projects, one studying the effect of fungicides on hops and the other improving hops-drying techniques to preserve their aromatic compounds.
– $10,000 for Hops on Lots Pittsburgh, which turns vacant properties into hops farms to supply local breweries.
– $7,147 to the Montgomery County Planning Commission for two “matchmaking events” in 2018 to connect interested farmers with local brewers in order to strengthen Montgomery County’s role in the local brewing economy.
Lagunitas Brewing will not reopen the Charleston, S.C., brewpub it took over in 2016 and was forced to close last year because it needed repairs. The company realized that renovating the building would cost too much to be worth it, company spokeswoman Karen Hamilton informed the The Post and Courier.
The building was constructed in 1880 as a store and warehouse for F.W. Wagener & Co. South end Brewery took it over in 1996, operating a popular brewpub. Lagunitas operated it for several months until last July, when the city ordered scaffolding put up to protect nearby pedestrians from bricks that might fall.
“That building seemed to be the perfect location because they were already a brewery,” Hamilton wrote in an email. “It takes buildings with a certain infrastructure to support the weight of a brewery as well as ceiling height, etc. So it is a unique thing. You just can’t set up shop anywhere.”
Despite the setback, the company has not given up on Charleston. “We’ve got our eyes open,” Hamilton said. “Or maybe not just another brewery but something else! We’re a fairly creative bunch so you never know.”