Monday, March 26, 2012

More gains for US craft brewers

Craft brewers across the country made more beer last year and sold more of it than in 2010, according to preliminary figures released Monday by the craft brewing industry's trade group.

Craft brewers saw volume surge 13 percent, with a 15 percent spike in retail sales from 2010 to 2011, representing a total barrel increase of 1.3 million. Additionally, the Brewers Association says the total number of operating craft breweries in the United States cracked the 2,000 mark by February of this year.

“While the overall beer market experienced a 1.32 percent volume decrease in 2011, craft brewing saw significant growth, surpassing 5 percent total market volume share for the first time,” says BA director Paul Gatza. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that with the variety of styles and flavors to choose from, Americans are developing a strong taste for high-quality, small-batch beer from independent brewers.”

Across New Jersey, 2011 was the hottest year for brewery start-ups since 1996, a nascent year for the craft brewing industry in the Garden State. Five new breweries were licensed in the state last year, while two new brewers – Flounder Brewing and Turtle Stone Brewing – have been given the green light by state regulators this year. That puts the tally of Garden State craft breweries at 24.

Since 2010, only two new craft brewers in the state – Port 44 Brew Pub in Newark and Great Blue Brewing in Franklin Township (Somerset County) – have thrown in the towel.

Production has been up for virtually every New Jersey craft brewer, with some, like High Point Brewing in Butler, opting to pass on participating in some festivals in order to keep the beer flowing unabated to draft accounts.

Meanwhile, Flying Fish continues its move from Cherry Hill to Somerdale, toiling away with building a new automated brewery that will triple its capacity.

Monday's release of statistics by the Brewers Association comes a little over a month before the May 2-5 Craft Brewers Conference, when industry members will gather in San Diego to hear finalized analyses of the business of small-batch beer.

Some of what the BA put out in those statistics echoes the usual booster talk the trade group has made in prior years' analyses. Still, the data are indicative of a hot sector getting hotter:

  • In 2011, craft brewers represented about 5.7 percent of volume of the U.S. beer market; that's up from 4.9 percent in 2010.
  • Production last year topped 11.4 million barrels.
  • Craft brewers' sales last year amounted to an estimated $8.7 billion, up from $7.6 billion in 2010. Increased retail sales accounted for slightly more than 9 percent of the nearly $95.5 billion U.S. beer market.
  • The number of U.S. craft breweries operating last year jumped 11 percent to 1,989; 250 of those were new. Last year saw 37 craft breweries close.
  • On the jobs front, U.S. small breweries employed about 103,585 workers last year.

Here's a footnote off the BA news ... If you doubt the sunny outlook consider this: In February, the Brewers Association hired a Manhattan public relations company, The Rosen Group, to help with getting the message out and other programs. Things have gotten busy for the BA, too.

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