Brewbound Podcast Episode 28: BA Chief Economist Bart Watson Projects 2018 Industry Results

The Brewers Association’s official assessment of 2018 craft production growth, brewery openings and closings, and other industry statistics won’t be released for a couple of weeks, but Brewbound Podcast listeners can get a sneak peek at the numbers in this week’s episode.

BA chief economist Bart Watson joined Brewbound editors Chris Furnari and Justin Kendall in late January to share a few high-level insights, including his projections for 2018 and beyond.

Based on the data available at the time of the interview, Watson said he expects beer production at BA-defined craft breweries to grow by about 4 percent in 2018, to more than 26 million barrels.

He also projected that between 7,400 and 7,500 breweries operated in all or part of 2018 and that roughly 1,000 new breweries opened their doors last year.

“If I had to project for 2019, I would project something pretty similar — about 1,000 openings,” he said.

Nevertheless, about 3.5 percent of U.S. craft breweries shuttered in 2018, and Watson estimated the number of closures to be about 250.

That figure would be an increase from the 165 breweries that closed their doors in 2017.

“We haven’t seen a number spike up into the 500 or 1,000 range and so openings are still going to outpace closings, I think about four-to-one this year,” he said.

But moving forward, Watson expects the brewery closings figure to rise, and potentially match the number of openings.

“Next year, I’d probably think 300 or 350, and then a few more the year after that, until we see that opening and closing rate really pull back together like we saw in the late ’90s and early 2000s,” he said.

In episode 28 of the Brewbound Podcast, Watson shares his early 2018 analysis and discusses the circumstances that have led to an increasing number of brewery closures in recent years. He also answers questions about the BA’s revised craft brewer definition, and the possible future impact of legal recreational cannabis on the alcohol segment.

Listen to episode 28 of the Brewbound Podcast above, as well as on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, and Soundcloud. New episodes of the Brewbound Podcast, which is co-hosted by Furnari and Kendall, are published every Thursday.

Episode 29, featuring Allagash Brewing founder Rob Tod, will be released on Thursday, March 28.

For questions, comments or suggestions, please email

Show Notes:

0:00 – 17:50: Chris Furnari and Justin Kendall introduce episode 28 and discuss the latest legislative and leadership updates in the beer industry.

18:50 – 53:50: Furnari and Kendall interview Bart Watson.

53:50 – 1:04:38: Furnari and Kendall share their takeaways from the interview and run down segments.

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