The Brewers Association just released the numbers from 2015 growth. Let’s look over them a bit and see what we can glean. At the end of 2015 the US was at a record high, 4,269 breweries and held a 12.2% volume market share. The BA said their goal is to have 20% volume market share by 2020. That 12.2% was a 1.2% increase over 2014. But 2014 was a big jump at 3.2%! What will 2016 provide?

While the number of breweries is much higher in 2015, the growth over the year prior has actually slowed by 4% (15% vs. 19%.) Between 2014 and 2015 the total beer market increased by $4.8 billion or an increase of 4.7%. The craft beer industry grew by 16% in that time. That’s down from a 22% increase from 2014 to 2015.

If the BA hopes to get to 20% volume market share by 2020, the industry must average 1.95% between 2016 and the beginning of 2020. This means we’re going to have to see another spike in volume in 2016 that surpasses 2015. And again in the years that follow. THAT is ambitious. The craft market would be relying on a slowing number of breweries to increase their volume to a point that would overcome that slowdown.

I’d like some clarification from the BA on some of their numbers as well. They say there are “4,225 craft breweries” at the end of 2015 and “44 Other breweries.” What are “other breweries”? If they’re not “craft” then what? I’d like to know if their 2015 numbers include those breweries that were bought out by Big Beer. If craft loses Firestone, Elysian, Ballast, et al, that 20% will be even less likely to be hit, right? Are those the “other” breweries?

Also, we recently reported on some new stats by the company Kinnek that showed a slowdown in many standard brewery items like brewhouses, kegs and pints.

My thoughts: The craft industry will not get to 20% volume market share by 2020. I think that 3.2% jump between 2013 and 2014 was the big push and unless there is a considerable change in the market, averaging nearly 2% volume growth per year is going to be hard to sustain. I’m calling for 16.5%, or ~1% volume increase per year. I also think the definition of what craft is by that time will also be shifting. Saying 20% with a market that looks like it does now, is going to be very different than 2020.

But who cares? Craft is doing what it does and doing it well and it’s fair to say we’re all enjoying it. It is not only changing an entire market, it is doing something much much better, it has created its own culture.

Numbers and press release below.

Press Release:

(Boulder, CO) — The Brewers Association (BA), the trade association representing small and independent1 American craft brewers, today released 2015 data on U.S. craft brewing2 growth. With more breweries than even before, small and independent craft brewers now represent 12 percent market share of the overall beer industry.

In 2015, craft brewers produced 24.5 million barrels, and saw a 13 percent rise in volume3 and a 16 percent increase in retail dollar value. Retail dollar value was estimated at $22.3 billion, representing 21 percent market share.

“For the past decade, craft brewers have charged into the market, seeing double digit growth for eight of those years,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “There are still a lot of opportunities and areas for additional growth. An important focus will remain on quality as small and independent brewers continue to lead the local, full-flavored beer movement.”

Additionally, in 2015 the number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew 15 percent, totaling 4,269 breweries—the most at any time in American history. Small and independent breweries account for 99 percent of the breweries in operation, broken down as follows: 2,397 microbreweries, 1,650 brewpubs and 178 regional craft breweries. Throughout the year, there were 620 new brewery openings and only 68 closings. One of the fastest growing regions was the South, where four states—Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Texas—each saw a net increase of more than 20 breweries, establishing a strong base for future growth in the region.

Combined with already existing and established breweries and brewpubs, craft brewers provided nearly 122,000 jobs, an increase of over 6,000 from the previous year.

“Small and independent brewers are a beacon for beer and our economy,” added Watson. “As breweries continue to open and volume increases, there is a strong need for workers to fill a whole host of positions at these small and growing businesses.”

Note: Numbers are preliminary. The Brewers Association will release the list of Top 50 craft brewing companies and overall brewing companies by volume sales on April 5. Additionally, a more extensive analysis will be released during the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® in Philadelphia from May 3-6. The full 2015 industry analysis will be published in the May/June 2016 issue of The New Brewer, highlighting regional trends and production by individual breweries.