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US craft beer scene grows as new figures and top 50 breweries revealed

US craft breweriess collectively produced 24.8 million barrels of beer last year, according to new figures from the Brewers Association (BA).

In the BA’s ‘Annual Craft Brewing Industry Production Report’ the findings revealed that, in 2021, the US craft beer scene realised 8% growth, increasing craft’s overall beer market share by volume to 13.1%, up from 12.2% the previous year.

According to the data, the overall beer market in the US grew 1% by volume in 2021 and retail dollar value was estimated at US$26.9 billion, representing 26.8% market share and 21% growth over 2020.

As stated in the figures, this growth is stronger than volume primarily due to the channel shift back to people going out to bars, taprooms and restaurants to drink, which has a higher average retail value than the sell through via bottleshops, stores and online orders.

Additionally, the report revealed that craft brewers provided more than 172,643 direct jobs – a 25% increase from 2020 – showing that the industry gives back to the economy and helps people out of unemployment.

BA chief economist Bart Watson said “Craft brewer sales rebounded in 2021, lifted by the return of draught and at-the-brewery traffic. However, the mixed performance across business models and geographies as well as production levels that still lag 2019 suggest that many breweries remain in recovery mode. Add in continuing supply chain and pricing challenges, and 2022 will be a critical year for many brewers.”

The number of operating craft breweries continued to climb in 2021, reaching an all-time high of 9,118, including 1,886 microbreweries, 3,307 brewpubs, 3,702 taproom breweries, and 223 regional craft breweries, the BA highlighted. It also identified that the total operating brewery count was 9,247, up from 9,025 in 2020 showing green shoots for the sector.

Throughout the year, there were 646 new brewery openings and 178 closings, however, openings decreased for a second consecutive year, with the continued decline reflecting a more mature market. Additionally, it highlighted how ongoing pandemic challenges and rising interest rates were additional factors.

Positively, the closing rate for small and independent breweries also declined in 2021, likely helped by a combination of better sales numbers and additional government relief through the ‘Restaurant Revitalisation Fund’, which was available to some brewpub and taproom brewers.

Watson explained: “While the boom in breweries of a few years before has certainly slowed, the continued growth in small breweries shows the solid foundation of demand for their businesses and beers.”

In addition, the BA also released its annual list of the top 50 producing craft brewing companies and overall brewing companies in the US based on beer sales volume. Most notably, of the top 50 overall brewing companies in 2021, 40 were small and independent craft brewing companies, showing that the thirst for authentic craft beer over macro corporate-owned beer brands is alive and well in America.

The list for the top 50 US brewing companies in 2021, mapped and listed in full, can be found here.

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