Last week, 14,000 beer industry professionals made their way to Denver, Colorado, for the annual Craft Brewers Conference, hosted by the Brewers Association (BA).
During the event — which featured about 100 different seminars on topics ranging from diversity and inclusion to franchise law reform – leaders from the BA cautioned attendees about future growth prospects for the category.
“This is not a blip,” BA chief economist Bart Watson said of the second consecutive year of 4 percent growth.
While that growth amounted to about 1 million new barrels of BA-defined craft beer being added to the category, most of it came from breweries that were launched over the last four years.
According to Watson, companies that launched between 2015 and 2018 brewed 872,000 new barrels last year. That represents growth of 53.2 percent, compared to just 0.5 percent growth for companies that were launched in 2014 or earlier. Those companies added just 105,000 new barrels last year.
On top of that, a record 219 breweries closed in 2018, while 1,049 new breweries opened.
Despite the slowing growth and the uptick in closures, an estimated 2,500 new breweries are still planning to jump into the space, which Watson said will only make it harder for existing ventures to grow.
“This is a trend that’s not going away,” he said. “It’s a reality that everyone should be prepared for.”
In addition to sharing the latest industry trends, BA leaders used the event as an opportunity to drum up support for its recently formed Political Action Committee (PAC).
BA executive committee vice chair and Maine Beer Company co-founder Dan Kleban told thousands of brewers attending last week’s opening general session that the organization could no longer rely on staff members or brewers volunteering their time to score legislative victories.
“We’re going to have to evolve,” he said, asking members to donate to the PAC.
“As a brewery owner, I look at contribution to the BA political action committee as an investment in my brewery and an investment in my employees,” he added.
If you weren’t one of the 14,000 who made it to the Mile High City last week, and you’re wondering what you missed, or if you did make the journey and want to relive your trip, check out our video recap above.