Cheers to Craft Beers
By Elizabeth Fuhrman
In 2004, 1,430 brewing
facilities manufactured beer, and of these, nearly 1,400 were craft
brewers. Although craft brewers may be the 1,400 smallest companies in the
beer industry, their total dollar volume is nearly $3.6 billion, and with 7
percent sales growth last year, they bucked the trend set by the biggest
For the first time since 1996, all four segments of
the craft brewing industry, which include regional specialty breweries,
contract-brewing companies, microbreweries and brewpubs, showed growth in 2004, reported the Brewers
Association, Boulder, Colo., at its Craft Brewers Conference last month in Philadelphia.
U.S. domestic specialty brewing reached nearly 6.7
million barrels in 2004. Regional specialty breweries, of which there are
57, sold more than 4.4 million barrels last year, up more than 8.5 percent
from 2003. In turn, contract-brewing companies sold 965,000 barrels last
year, up more than 2.3 percent from 2003.
“Consumers are trading up to products with more
character, taste and variety and just more history, heritage and tradition
vs. mass marketed products,” says Jim Koch, founder of the Boston
Beer Co., the largest of the craft brewers and brewer of Samuel Adams
Beers. “Consumers are just getting more knowledgeable about different
tastes and styles of any alcoholic beverage, whether it’s wine,
liquor or beer, and craft brewers are the beneficiaries of consumer
The regional specialty brewers segment makes up more
than 65 percent of the craft brewers market. Regional specialty brewers
with national distribution didn’t grow as quickly in 2004 as regional
players adding new distribution states. Additionally, companies producing
between 15,000 to 60,000 barrels saw about 12 percent sales growth while
companies producing more than 120,000 barrels saw only 5 percent growth.
The more than 350 microbrewers in the industry were
relatively stable, with few new openings and closings (26 and 12,
respectively). These companies, which make up about 11 percent of the craft
brewers market, produced 734,000 barrels in 2004, up more than 7 percent
from last year. On average, microbreweries manufactured 2,091 barrels in
2004, recovering from a rough year in 2003 and taking the companies a
little bit ahead of their 2002 average.
Brewpubs, which number a little less than 1,000, saw
their first beer production growth since 2000, with brewpubs producing
636,000 barrels in 2004 up 5.1 percent from the previous year. On average,
brewpubs produced 645 barrels, with 203 brewpubs manufacturing more than
1,000 barrels and 28 brewpubs making more than 2,000 barrels.
Brewpubs, which make up 9.5 percent of the craft
brewing market, also have expanded from single-site brewpubs to companies
with multiple sites. Some of brewpubs’ growth can be attributed to
packaged beer for off-premise sales.
Since 1994, the craft brewing industry has seen
contract brewing companies decline from 43 percent of the total market to
about 14.4 percent in 2004. The Brewers Association feels this trend will
continue, with regional specialty brewers’ sales increasing and this
segment making up more of the market share.