In Bellingham, craft beer is killing it. It’s growing, breweries are flourishing and things are looking up. Across the US though, outside of our secluded and protected waters, craft beer isn’t flowing with the same fervor.
The Brewer’s Association released a midway 2017 report on how craft beer is fairing. The report is titled “BREWERS ASSOCIATION MID-YEAR RESULTS SHOW STABLE GROWTH FOR CRAFT SEGMENT”. But, really?
“The growth pace for small and independent brewers has stabilized at a rate that still reflects progress but in a more mature market. Although more difficult to realize, growth still exists,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association.
As of June 30th, there were 5,562 craft breweries in the US with 2,739 breweries in planning. They employ 128,768 full time and part time workers.
The growth for small and independent craft breweries across the US is still stable and growing. It’s the regional and larger volume breweries are slowing and, in some cases, receding. 2017 has showcased 5% growth. To put that in perspective, in 2013 there was 18% growth. By 2016 that had slowed to 8% growth.
The BA’s mid-year report might be better titled as “Brewers Association mid-year results show slowing growth for the craft segment.” That is a more accurate narrative when taking into account the historical trends But a closer look around the webs at third party analysis suggests different. According to Fortune Magazine, Goldman Sachs has downgraded publicly traded Samuel Adams to “Sell” because of fear of slowing sales.
But this opinion is based off of changes in total volume, as opposed to sectors within the craft segment itself. The number of breweries is increasing, but those breweries are deciding to brew less, on purpose. Bart Watson, the BA’s Chief Economist tweeted this interesting fact a while back
One fun fact: From 2014-16 the number of breweries making >5,001 bbls only grew +9. The number making <5,000 barrels grew +176.
— Bart Watson (@BrewersStats) July 24, 2017
Samuel Adam’s downgrade follows a turbulent first half for the company after it reported $27.1 million decrease (14 percent) from the same period last year, mainly due to a decline in shipments of 15 percent.
Dependent upon how you measure it, the 2016 year end report showed flat growth, or even receding growth, across the board. In fact, production was down by 3 million barrels from 2015.
There are rumblings of more breweries opening in Bellingham. We know the parties and we’re happy that they are planning to open in such a craft friendly city as Bellingham, where things are thriving. But this isn’t the same market as 2013. It’s not even the same market as 2016. Things are changing and with all change comes adaptation. We’re excited to see how our breweries adapt in the second half of 2017.