US craft beer contributes $68bn to the economy

In a report released by industry group the Brewers Association, it was revealed that the US craft beer industry contributed $67.8 billion to the US economy, as well as more than 456,000 jobs, in 2016.

The figure was obtained by the Brewers Association via its annual ‘Beer Industry Production Survey’ (BIPS) and the bi-annual ‘Brewery Operations Benchmarking Survey’ (BOBS) as well as additional government and market data and relates to ‘small and independent American craft brewers.’

The Brewers Association define ‘small’ as ‘annual production of six million barrels of beer or less’ and ‘independent’ as a brewery that is ‘less than 25% owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.’

Included in $67.8 billion is the ‘total impact of beer brewed by craft brewers as it moves through the three-tier system’ – meaning from breweries, to wholesalers and finally to retailers – as well as ‘non-beer products like food and merchandise’ that is sold directly from brewpub eateries, taprooms and shops.

The report also found that the US craft beer industry provides over 456,000 full-time jobs, with 128,000 offered by the breweries and brewpubs themselves.

The $67.8 billion total represents a 21.7% increase from 2014, which was the last time similar data was collected, when the industry contributed $55.7 billion to the US economy. In an overview of its methodology, Brewers Association said that although the 2016 study “was broadly comparable to the methodology used in 2012 and 2014, there were several updates from earlier iterations of the Brewers Association Economic Impact Studies. It also stated that the “scope of the study was shifted slightly to align with changes to the craft brewer definition made the BA’s board of directors in early 2014. The 2016 study is comparable in definition to the 2014 study, but both will have differences relative to 2012”.

These figures give a more positive impression of the US craft beer industry after figures, also released by the Brewers Association, showed that sales of US craft beer have continued to slow in the first half of 2017.

Despite this decelerating growth, both in sales and production volume, the organisation has said that the industry is experiencing much steadier year-on-year growth. It also cites the fact that the number of craft breweries operating in the US continues to grow – as of 30 June, there were 5,562 operating breweries in the US, an increase of 906 from the same time period the previous year while there are also approximately 2,739 breweries in planning, according to the Brewers Association.

Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, said: “With a strong presence across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, craft breweries are a vibrant and flourishing economic force at the local, state and national level. As consumers continue to demand a wide range of high quality, full-flavoured beers, small and independent craft brewers are meeting this growing demand with innovative offerings, creating high levels of economic value in the process”.

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