Brewers Association: 2017 ‘watershed year’ for craft beer

US industry body the Brewers Association has referred to 2017 as a “watershed year for craft beer” as it looks back on the defining beer moments of the year.

In a statement, the Brewers Association has revealed that 2017 has witnessed strong brewery growth, increased beer tourism and 2,700 craft brewers signing up to use its new independent craft brewer seal.

With reports indicating that the growth of the US craft beer market is slowing, Bart Wilson, chief economist at the Brewers Association gave his thoughts on the developments in 2017.

“Craft brewers continue to thrive, if at a slower pace, fuelled by a passionate community dedicated to bringing innovation, jobs and beer across America – on Main Street and beyond.”

“Today, 83% of the population lives within 10 miles of a local brewery, meaning that the positive impact of breweries is being felt in communities all over the country”.

In its report, the Brewers Association noted that the number of US breweries was growing steadily, with over 6,000 now operational in the US, 98% of which are “small and independent craft brewers”.

In its Economic Impact Report, released earlier this year, the Brewers Association revealed that craft brewers contributed $67.8 billion to the US economy in 2016, which represents a 21.7% increase from 2014. In addition craft brewers created over 456,373 full-time equivalent jobs, a 7.5% increase from 2014, with 128,768 of these roles based at breweries and brewpubs.

As already mentioned, the Brewers Association also launched its Independent Craft Brewer Seal in June this year with the aim to educate beer lovers and indicate to them which beers are independently produced.

To date, it has revealed that over 2,700 small and independent craft beer companies have signed up to use the seal.

It its round-up of the year, the Brewers Association also mentioned The Craft Beverage Modernisation and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) which has gained a majority of support in both houses, having been reintroduced in the 115th congress. If the bill is passed it will reduce the federal excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels of beer produced by a US brewery, providing that it produces fewer than 2 million barrels a year.

The industry body also notes that homebrewing in the US is on the rise, with an estimated 1.1m homebrewers in America. This year, homebrewers produced over 1.4m barrels of beer, the equivalent of 1% of the total US beer production. Additionally, the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrew competition attracted 8,618 entries from 3,530 homebrewers worldwide.

It therefore comes as no surprise that beer tourism is on the rise, and according to the Brewers Association, the average craft beer drinker in the US visits 3.5 breweries near their homes and 2.5 breweries within a two hour driving radius. 64% of those surveyed by the body said visiting a brewery or tap room was “a new or different beer drinking occasion” indicating that craft breweries in the US are increasingly exploring these options as alternative sales channels.

Finally, the Brewers Association noted that craft brewers have donated an estimated $73.4m to charitable causes in 2016, up from $71m in 2014.

Julia Herz, craft beer programme director at the Brewers Association, added: “This has been an incredible year for the craft beer community with both challenges and successes. Emphasised more than ever before is the need to advocate for and educate beer drinkers on the importance and value of craft brewers to our nation and our culture”.

“What is especially gratifying is watching the positive impacts beer tourism and independent breweries are having on local communities”.

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