Growth in the craft beer industry has slowed, but the sector still sees growth in both volume and value terms, and in the number of active breweries.
A key issue going forward will be to advocate for, and educate drinkers on, the importance and value of craft brewers, says the association, with increased interest in beer tourism driving this forward.
The Brewers Association’s eight highlights of the year include the launch of their independent beer seal to help distinguish craft brewers on the shelves, and the growth of beer tourism in the US.
In 2017 there were 6,000 breweries in operation in the US, with 98% of them small and independent craft brewers.
While growth in the craft beer industry has slowed down compared to previous years, the sector still boasts growth of 6% by volume and 10% by value.
Jobs and economic impact
A report released by the BA this year showed that brewers contributed $68.8bn to the US economy in 2016: up 22% from 2014. Craft brewers are responsible for more than 456,373 full-time equivalent jobs, a 7.5% increase from 2014. Of these, 128,768 are directly at breweries and brewpubs.
Independent Craft Brewer Seal
In June, the BA launched a special seal to distinguish independent brewers from other beers on the shelf. The upside-down bottle seeks to ‘capture the spirit with which craft brewers have upended beer’. There are now more than 2,700 brewers signed up to use the seal, representing 75% of domestic volume.
Take Craft Back
The acquisition of craft brewers by various multinational companies continues to be a cause for concern for the Brewers Association. So in October the BA launched its own tongue-in-cheek crowdfunding campaign to raise $213bn to purchase Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer.
The campaign seeks to draw attention to the lack of transparency and growing disparity in marketplace influence between small and independent brewers and ‘Big Beer’. Nearly 12,000 craft beer lovers have pledged their support.
Bipartisan Beer Support
The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), championed by Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Ron Kind (D-WI) and Sen. Bob Portman (R-OH), was reintroduced in the 115th Congress and has reached a majority of support in both houses.
If passed, the bill (which was added as an amendment to the larger Senate Tax Reform Bill in November) would significantly reduce the federal excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels of any domestic brewery that produces fewer than 2 million barrels a year; and would lower the federal excise tax on barrelage up to 6 million barrels.
Homebrewing now accounts for 1% of total US beer production. There are currently around 1.1 million homebrewers in the US, and in 2017 homebrewers produced more than 1.4 million barrels of beer.
The Brewers Association points to the rise of beer tourism. Brewery visits have created a new sales channel for beer: with 64% of craft drinkers surveyed by the BA saying they visit a brewery or tap room for a new or different beer drinking occasion.
The average craft drinker visits 3.5 breweries near their home, and 2.5 breweries within two hours’ driving distance.
Craft breweries have a positive impact on local communities, says the Brewers Association, as well as bringing value to the nation and culture.
Craft brewers donated an estimated $73.4m to charitable causes in 2016, up from $71m in 2014.