It only took 142 years, but the U.S. craft beer industry has finally set a new record. The Brewers Association announced today that as of Nov. 30, there are 4,144 breweries operating in the country, surpassing the previous record of 4,131, which dates back to 1873.
Of course, a lot has changed in between — prohibition, the federal highway system, the sale of the country’s largest brewery, Anheuser-Busch, to InBev, in 2008, the advent of the Cascade hop.
But what has brought things full circle, according to the BA’s chief economist, Bart Watson, is a national return to “localized beer culture.”
As of now, 15 states have more than 100 breweries each, and new breweries are opening across the country at a rate of more than two per day. Research conducted by the BA shows that a product being “locally made” is an important factor for more than 50 percent of craft consumers. Additionally, most craft drinkers said they value knowing whether a brewery is “small and independent” and that it influences their product choices.
The study underscored last year’s BA findings as well; in 2014, Watson noted that “the majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a local brewery, and with almost 2,000 planning breweries in the BA database, that percentage is only going to climb.”
The new report shows a clear continuation of production-growth trends seen in the last few years. As it stands, the number of breweries in the country has already increased by 19.6 percent compared to 2014 (4,144 v. 3,464). That’s only a slight increase in the rate of brewery openings, however, as more and more entrepreneurs are getting started:The national brewery count grew by 18.7% in 2014 (3,464 v. 2917), and by 18.8% in 2013 (2,917 v. 2456).
It is not yet clear how this will affect the BA’s prediction that craft will represent 20 percent of US beer production by 2020. The organization will release a comprehensive summary of 2015 beer production in March of next year.
Last year, U.S. craft breweries produced 22.2 million barrels, an 18 percent increase over 2013. That accounted for $19.6 billion in sales, and represented 19.3 percent of overall beer market share in the U.S. Craft also accounted for 11 percent of all beer produced in the country – the first time the segment earned a double digit volume share.
The BA also noted that the IPA continues to be the dominating style among independent craft breweries, and is growing at a faster rate than the craft industry itself.