It’s been more than four years since I came back home to Nepal after completing my bachelor’s degree in Pennsylvania. And if there is one thing that I miss about the United States, it’s the wide variety of beer available. Now I’m not complaining about the beer available here, I mean it’s still beer, but the limited variety is just not enough for my taste buds. Even worse, I have to constantly hear from my friends and family in the U.S. about their new favorite beverages; most of the time it is about some craft beer they’ve just had. Back in 2011, when I graduated, craft beer was just catching on. But ever since then, I have been reading and hearing about the growth of the craft beer industry, and I kind of feel left out of this tide.
What is craft beer? Craft beer is produced in small amounts by microbreweries that are independently owned. Craft beer is all about the quality, flavor, and brewing technique unlike the large-scale breweries. Usually beer drinkers are attracted by the rich quality of beer and the unique brewing technique of each microbrewery. The craft beer industry can be divided into four distinct market segments: brewpubs, microbreweries, regional craft breweries, and contract brewing companies.
American’s love for craft beer has been evident given their market share in the beer industry; both in terms of volume as well as total dollar amount. From 2012 to 2015, its market share has almost doubled in both production volume as well as total dollar amount. The number of craft breweries has grown from 2,401 to a massive 4,225, meaning there are a whole lot of flavors for beer drinkers to try. According to Brewers Association, the average American lives within 10 miles of a brewery.
Brewers Association also estimates that craft brewing contributed $55.7 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014 and created more than 424,000 jobs, of which 115,000 were at breweries and brewpubs itself.
Craft Brewery Projects
If we look at the data provided by Conway Analytics, we have seen a huge increase in the number of brewery projects in the last couple of years. Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, California, and Virginia all had seven or more projects in 2014 and 2015. The number of projects has more than doubled from 30 in 2013 to 62 in 2015. While some of these expansion and new project announcements are from large brewing companies, a lot of the growth seems to be fuelled by small craft beer producers. Of all the companies that announced a project from 2011 to 2015, twenty companies had two or more projects in these five years.
Can I still make it while the tide is in?
The recent boom in craft beer seems to be slowing down, at least according to this recent article in Time which states that craft beer sales are only up 6%. However, Brewers Association chief economist, Bart Watson, points out that if non-Brewers Association companies such as Blue Moon and Shock Top are taken out of the equation, craft growth goes up almost 9 percent. One reason for this could be that craft beer drinkers simply love small brewers with unique taste. As these small breweries grow or are bought by mega brewers, drinkers will simply move on to the smaller brewers.
Craft beer has, undoubtedly, become the drink of choice amongst millennials. While there is some slowdown in this craft beer revolution, I may still be able to make it back to the States to experience this glorious “Mom–and–Pop Pub” era that I’ve been hearing about for the past several years!