Brewers Association: Craft Volume Growth Holds at 4% in 2019

Volume growth for the nation’s small and independent craft breweries held steady at nearly 4% in 2019, as the overall beer industry’s volume declined 2%, according to trade group the Brewers Association’s annual craft beer growth report.

In 2019, craft brewers — those who produce fewer than 6 million barrels annually and less than 25% owned by a non-craft brewer — produced 26.3 million barrels, up from 25.5 million barrels produced in 2018. Total beer volume in the U.S. reached 191.2 million barrels in 2019, down from 194.3 million barrels the previous year (which does not include FMBs/FSBs).

Those numbers are likely to decline, as Nielsen CGA estimated that around 1.3 million barrels of BA-defined craft beer could be lost if the shutdown of all U.S. on-premise outlets forced by COVID-19 lasts through April, which it most likely will and could extend much longer.

Independent craft’s share of the total beer market by volume increased to 13.6% in 2019, up from 13% in 2018 and 12.5% in 2017.

Craft brewers also over-index in dollar share, accounting for more than a quarter (25.2%) of all dollars spent on beer, a 6% increase compared to 2018. U.S. consumers spent an estimated $29.3 billion on craft beer in 2019.

“Although craft brewers entered 2020 on a solid foundation, the beer landscape is dramatically different today than it was just a few months ago,” BA chief economist Bart Watson said in a press release. “Breweries will be facing new realities due to the pandemic with extended closures, tight cash flow, societal shifts, and other economic variables in play. These 2019 figures will allow us to see how much COVID-19 affects small brewer production and jobs.”

In 2019, 8,275 craft breweries operated at some point during the year, which breaks down to:

  • 2,058 microbreweries, which produce fewer than 15,000 barrels annually and produce packaged beer for distribution;
  • 3,011 brewpubs, which produce beer primarily for consumption on their own premises and operate on-site restaurants;
  • 2,966 taproom breweries, which produce beer for consumption on their own premises and package beer for to-go sales, but don’t have restaurants, and;
  • 240 regional craft breweries, those producing between 15,000 and 6 million barrels of beer annually.

Since 2015, when 4,670 craft breweries were in operation in the U.S, 3,605 companies have opened for business.

In 2019, 942 breweries opened their doors, while 294 closed. The number of closures was an expected uptick as Watson had projected around 300 breweries would close their doors in 2019. As the majority of states have shutdown on-premise sales in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, there is concern that thousands of craft breweries may shutter.

A survey conducted by the BA in early April found that 46.4% of respondents said their businesses would likely only last between one and three months, while 12.7% said they could stay afloat for just another one to four weeks.

A quarter of respondents said their businesses could survive between three and six months, while 8.3% said they could hang on between six months and a year. Just 5.1% said they would be able to stay in business a year.

The survey found that 2.5% of respondents said they were planning to close their doors.

Craft breweries provided 161,007 direct jobs in 2019, an increase of 7% over2018. However, as concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have forced taprooms, tasting rooms and on-premise retailers nationwide to temporarily shut down, many companies have laid off or furloughed workers. According to the BA’s survey, 66% of respondents said they have laid off or furloughed staff.

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