Craft brewers are toasting a new milestone — and healthy sales. For the first time last year, craft beer captured more than 5 percent of the overall U.S. beer market.
It may not sound like a big deal, but overall beer sales have been slipping while the craft beer segment — suds made by small and independent brewers — continues to grow.
“It’s certainly great to see,” said Eric Bean, brewer and owner of the Columbus Brewing Co. and incoming president of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association. “The consumer awareness is growing so quickly.”
Craft brewers saw their share of the U.S. beer market climb from 4.97 percent of volume to 5.68 percent, according to the Brewers Association, a Boulder, Colo.-based trade group that represents small and independent brewers. The association released the statistics last week.
The overall beer market fell 1.32 percent by volume.
“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,” Brewers Association Director Paul Gatza said in a prepared statement.
Retail sales of craft beer jumped 15 percent last year, and volume rose 13 percent.
The association estimated sales last year at $8.7 billion, up from $7.6 billion. Craft beer sales represent only 9.1 percent of the $95.5 billion U.S. beer market.
One of the reasons for the increased volume is more breweries. There were 1,989 breweries operating in the U.S. last year — an 11 percent increase from the previous year. Five years ago, there were 1,458.
Ohio has seen a major surge in craft brewery openings in recent years, and there are many more hoping to open this year or next year.
Bean said there is plenty of room for craft beer growth in Ohio and that the state, which has more than 50 breweries now, hasn’t hit a saturation point yet.
“There’s a lot of blue sky in front of us,” he said.
But Bean also questioned whether many of the planned breweries will succeed. “The grocery stores can put only so many beers on the store shelves,” he said.