Craft Volume Up 16 Percent Through June


Craft beer volume is up 16 percent at the midway point of 2015, according to a recent Brewers Association (BA) report.

Year-to-date through the end of June, U.S. craft brewers sold approximately 12.2 million barrels of beer, per the BA’s data, up from 10.6 million barrels sold during the same period in 2014.

In a news release, BA chief economist Bart Watson said growth is occurring in all regions throughout the country and is “stemming from a mix of sources including various retail settings and a variety of unique brewery business models.”

While craft volume is up, the segment’s typically torrid rate of growth has slowed slightly as compared to the same timeframe last year.

During 2014’s mid-year check-in, that abovementioned 10.6 million barrel figure represented a volume increase of 18 percent, marginally higher than the 16 percent increase announced today.

Reached by Brewbound, Watson said it’s hard to know exactly what’s behind the dip, but pointed to three things that might be contributing factors:

  1. A bigger base of breweries:

“This 16 [percent] rate puts the segment on pace to add as many barrels as last year (if not slightly more), but that same absolute number of barrels is a lower rate on a bigger base.”

  1. On-premise challenges:

“Regionals are starting to face some of the same on-premise challenges as the large brewers – tap rotation, desire for hyper-local, etc.”

  1. Capacity constraints:

“Most of the slow growth is coming from breweries with capacity constraint issues.”

“[A bigger base] suggests slowing growth in the medium term, whereas [capacity issues] suggests a return to previous levels [of] growth are possible when more capacity comes online,” added Watson. “[The second issue] I’m less sure about, since as micros proliferate, they are becoming a larger and larger source of absolute growth. In addition, I think many regionals are getting the message, and both learning to play a more nimble on-premise game as well as looking for future opportunities with scale retailers.”

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The rate is still higher than the 15 percent gain in volume sales measured at the midway point of 2013. However, that count was taken using an outdated Brewers Association definition for a craft brewery, one that excluded Yuengling, which is now regarded by the trade group as the nation’s largest craft brewer.

As of June 30, there were 3,739 operating craft breweries in the United States, 699 more than at last mid-year check, according to the BA. Less than 1,750 craft breweries were operating in 2010. And there’s still plenty of entrepreneurs trying to break into the space — the organization counted 1,755 breweries-in-planning at the end of June.

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