Craft Beer Earns 11% Share of US Beer Market

Mike Laur - March 17, 2015
The Boulder-based Brewers Association announced this week what we all suspected, if did not already know: 2014 was a kick-ass year for craft beer. The BA does a good job of tracking trends and keeping current, but their latest numbers just released for 2014 make it official. For the first time ever, craft brewers reached a double-digit (11 percent) share by volume of the US beer marketplace.

While the total 2014 US beer market nudged up by only 0.5%, small and independent craft brewers cranked out 22.2 million barrels of beer last year - up from 15.6 million barrels in 2013, and twice as much as they made in 2011, according to the BA. That's a huge one-year increase, partly due to the more than 600 new brewers that opened in the US last year.

Bart Watson, chief economist with Brewers Association, calls this continuing growth "part of a profound shift in American beer culture-a shift that will help craft brewers achieve their ambitious goal of 20 percent market share by 2020." Now THAT'S a lot of craft beer...

The BA continues:

Additionally, the number of operating breweries in the U.S. in 2014 grew 19 percent, totaling 3,464 breweries, with 3,418 considered craft: 1,871 microbreweries, 1,412 brewpubs and 135 regional craft breweries. Throughout the year, there were 615 new brewery openings and only 46 closings.

Here in Colorado, we're tracking over 60 new brewing operations that started up in 2014. The other 230 existing Colorado brewers were hopping in 2014, too, adding capacity, putting in more taproom seating, expanding sales territories, buying and filling barrels, and making more excellent beers for all of us to enjoy.

Katlin Birdsall, marketing maven at Kannah Creek Brewing in Grand Junction, hardly had time to catch her breath. Their new Edgewater brewery, opened in mid-2013, allowed Kannah Creek to triple their production in 2014 to meet growing demand.

"We started selling in Arizona, New Mexico and Nebraska, and just this week
started shipping beer to Idaho," says Kaitlin. "The Front Range is a big growth area for us, too. We produced 3400 barrels in 2014, and are on track to grow by at least 10-15% in 2015."

Keith Altemose, of Nano108 Brewing in Colorado Springs, shares that same enthusiasm for 2015. "We had staggering growth - an immense amount of growth - in 2014. Our projections are to double our capacity for 2015. I've got a new brewer starting today, and my goal is to do more barrel aging and make more beers that are outside the pocket."

Keith says he worked 364 days last year (closed Christmas), and he has another big goal for 2015: more time off. He's already booked a shoreside vacation, and plans to have more of a personal life with his family this year. In the meantime, Nano108 has taken over 2500 square feet of additional space, and will add new 15 barrel fermenters and bright tanks that will double capacity. A new beer engine and packaging equipment for 32-ounce canned "crowlers" should get the attention of customers who come in search of the latest, greatest and tastiest of beers.

Those customers are driving the unprecedented growth of craft beer. Keith, who usually has at least ten beers on tap, knows that his customers want new beers. "Diversity is king - people want new flavors, the next big thing, and they're out there buying 20 dollar bombers of the rave beers. We took last year's profit and pumped it back into more people an equipment at Nano108 so that we could stay ahead. Hard work pays off."

The BA sums this all up nicely: "These small businesses are one of the bright spots in both our economy and culture. Craft brewers are serving their local communities, brewing up jobs and boosting tourism," added Watson. "Craft brewers are creating
high quality, differentiated beers; new brewers that match this standard
will be welcomed in the market with open arms."

Pumpkin Peach, anyone?

Mike Laur © DG2C
Kannah Creeks' Edgewater Brewery in Grand Junction gives them the suds they need to now sell in five states. They plan to focus 2015 efforts on bringing more beers to the Front Range.
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