Craft beer keeps growing: US craft brewers report 13% rise in volume in 2015

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

A 13% rise in craft volumes is signficant, given that total US beer volumes decreased by 0.2%. Pic: iStock/pyzata
A 13% rise in craft volumes is signficant, given that total US beer volumes decreased by 0.2%. Pic: iStock/pyzata

Related tags Brewers association Brewery

Small and independent craft brewers now account for a 12% market share of the US beer industry by volume, according to the Brewers Association.  

The figures for 2015 show craft brewers produced 24.5m barrels, and saw a 13% rise in volume. That is against an industry backdrop where the total US beer market was down 0.2% in the year.

Craft brewers also saw a 16% increase in retail dollar value.  This has been estimated at $22.3bn for 2015, representing 21% market share.

The preliminary figures have been released by the Brewers Association this week, and will be followed by a further breakdown next month.  

The Brewers Association is a not-for-profit trade association, which promotes and protects American craft brewers and their beers.

Craft: small, independent, traditional

A 12% market share for craft brewers in 2015 demonstrates how the significance of the industry has grown in recent years.

Craft brewers only took a 5.7% volume share in the US beer market in 2011. This was followed by 6.5% in 2012, 7.8% in 2013 and 11% in 2014.

The Brewers Association defines a craft brewer as one that is small, independent and traditional.

This means annual production of up to 6m barrels of beer a year, with less than 25% of the brewery owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.

Number of barrels produced by US craft brewers

2010: 10.1m

2011: 11.5m

2012: 13.2m

2013: 15.6m

2014: 22.1m

2015: 24.5m  

Brewery numbers rise

The US now has the most breweries that it ever has had: growing 15% to reach 4,269 breweries in 2015.

This compares to just 1,749 five years ago in 2010. In 2013 this had grown to 2,863, followed by 3,722 in 2014.

While 68 breweries closed in 2015, this was far outweighed by the opening of 620 new facilities.

Out of the 4,269 breweries, 2,397 are microbreweries (up 20% from 2014), 1,650 are brewpubs (up 10% from 2014) and 178 are regional craft breweries (up 26% from 2014).

In terms of geography, the South was one of the fastest growing regions in 2015. Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Texas all saw a net increase of more than 20 breweries, which the Brewers Association says shows a strong base for future growth in the regions.

The Brewers Association points to economic contribution the increasing numbers of breweries are making to the economy.

“Craft brewers provided nearly 122,000 jobs [in 2015], an increase of over 6,000 from the previous year,” ​it says. This is a 5.5% increase from 2014.

“As breweries continue to open and volume increases, there is a strong need for workers to fill a whole host of positions at these small and growing businesses.”

Most of the statistics in the Brewers Associations’ 2015 report comes from self-reported data (84% of the volume reported), which can be double checked against state sources. The remaining 16% comes from estimations from the Brewers Association. 

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