Yesterday, an article hit the wires courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that reported some positive news for craft beer breweries and the enthusiasts that support their products.
In 2013, craft beer continued to chip away at the total U.S. beer volume, rising to 7.8%. This is up from 6.5% in 2012 and 4.4% in 2009. According to The Brewers Association, a Colorado-based industry trade group, craft brewers’ volume rose 18% to 15.6 million barrels last year. Craft beer sales totaled approximately $14.3 billion, up from $11.9 billion in 2012. And while 423 new breweries opened across the country, only 44 shut down.
The Brewers Association defines craft brewers as small, independent, and traditional, with production no more than 6 million barrels over the course of a year. At the close of 2013, there were 2,822 operating breweries in the U.S., and 2,768 were considered “craft” breweries.
So what do all these numbers represent? Undoubtedly, progress. Whenever there’s an uptick in overall sales and growth, it exemplifies the fact that more people are exercising their own right to choose, not getting wrapped up in habits or in-your-face marketing and advertising campaigns.
These numbers also show that more breweries are taking on the responsibility of brewing challenging, creative, unique offerings because a demand that was once miniscule a decade ago is now abundant. More people are putting down the tasteless domestics and moving into a libation that pushes their palate to the limit. As more people evolve their taste expectations, the more breweries are challenged to fulfill that expectation. And this steady rise in volume and sales shows both sides of that equation are holding up their end.
While progress and upward trends are nice, these numbers also reveal what we already know: the big guys still have the stranglehold on the marketshare. Without question, billions of dollars poured into advertising instead of improving the product still works. Clearly, the big guys understand the threat at hand, but their answer is to buy up their competition and make them disappear, thus helping them maintain the stranglehold. In addition, they’re putting out mediocre products with a craft beer “twist” in an effort to convince you, the consumer, they understand craft beer. While it’s entirely up to you to make the choice, be warned the product you consume is simply another 12 oz. tool used to maximize profits, not meet your demands in the realms of quality, flavor, and satisfaction.
The ratio of new breweries to those who closed their doors is promising as well. While it still remains to be seen if these new breweries can become sustainable, there will be no questioning their passion to break into an incredibly demanding arena and market a product with countless competitors. While craft brewers share that common mission of hacking away at the big guys’ stranglehold, they’re ultimately in competition with one another as well, be it at a local, regional, and/or national level. With proper strategy and commitment to brewing a quality product, the new kids on the block are already taking a step in the right direction, and with more breweries committed to fulfilling their customer’s demands, the more opportunity craft beer has to grow and thrive.
2013 produced promising results that hopefully will be exceeded in 2014. The most important takeaway from this pattern of growth is the simple fact that the once-low, almost muted voice of the Craft Beer Revolution has risen to a dull roar. As more breweries open, more palates evolve, and more people transition into craft beer consumers, that roar will get louder and louder.
Why do you feel craft beer numbers increased in 2013? Leave your comments below!