The year in beer: US celebrates 2018 craft brewing highlights

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Beer Craft beer Us

With the number of US breweries breaking the 7,000 milestone in October this year, it’s been a big year for small beer. The Brewers Association, the trade association for small and independent US craft brewers, looks back on the 2018 highlights for the industry.

5% growth for US craft beer sales

The craft brewing industry continues to grow. In 2017 the US craft beer industry grew by 5% - against a backdrop of 1% declines in overall US beer volumes - and mid-year figures show 5% growth continuing in 2018. Although growth is predicted to have been slightly slower in the latter half of 2018, the Brewers Association says the craft beer sales will once again reach a new high in 2018.

Number of breweries grows

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There are now more than 7,000 breweries operating in the US in total, which equates to a 20% increase over 2017. Although the final numbers are still being compiled, the Brewers Association estimates there will have been around 1,000 openings in 2018.

Within the craft sector, there's been a shift towards small-scale operations​ like local microbreweries and taprooms, away from regional breweries with multi-state distribution footprints.

Meanwhile, the top 50 craft brewers, based on beer sales volume, can be found here.​ 

Increased jobs

The US craft beer industry now supports 500,000 jobs: up 9% on 2017. More than 135,000 of these are found directly at breweries and brewpubs.

Economic impact

As the craft beer industry continues to grow, so does its economic impact: totaling more than $76bn in in 2017. This figure is derived from the total impact of beer brewed by craft brewers as it moves through breweries, wholesalers and retailers; as well as other products sold in brewpub restaurants and taprooms (such as food and merchandise).

Meanwhile, craft brewers are reinvesting their tax savings from a recalibrated federal excise tax on beer in growing operations with new equipment and new hires.    

Independent craft brewer seal

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In June 2017 the Brewers Association launched its independent craft brewer seal to help consumers identify truly independent breweries. More than 4,000 craft breweries have adopted the seal: representing 85% of the volume of craft beer brewed in the country.

Haze craze

US craft brewers continue to innovate and experiment with emerging styles, offering new opportunities to connect with a diverse audience of beer lovers. The Brewers Association added three juicy or hazy styles to its Beer Style Guidelines and Great American Beer Festival competition in 2018, and enjoyed a record number of entries.

Community hubs

In the US, 85% of adults now live within 10 miles (16km) of a brewery. The continued growth in breweries means that more communities have a local brewery and it is easier than ever to tour or visit one.


Homebrewers now make up 1% of US beer production: with around 1 million homebrewers producing 1.4 million barrels of beer a year. And 40% of these have only started brewing in the last four years, showing the increase in interest in the hobby. 

The Brewers Association will release a complete 2018 breakdown and analysis of the industry during the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America in Denver, Colorado, April 8 – 11, 2019, featuring keynote speaker Bruce Dickinson, brewer, businessman, pilot, and lead singer of Iron Maiden.

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