Craft Beer In 2023 – The Good And Bad News

, Craft Beer In 2023 – The Good And Bad News

Photo © Brewers Association’

The national trade not-for-profit, the Brewers Association has released its annual Craft Brewing Industry Production Report and at best it was a mixed bag…

It’s clear that craft beer’s boom years are over  (at least for this cycle) and we couldn’t help but feel that Bart Watson, vice president of strategy and chief economist of the Brewers Association, who helmed an industry call that accompanied the April 16 report, was doing his best to put a positive spin on where the craft beer biz is today while remining realistic in his appraisal.

The Good News

Jobs, on-premise sales (think beer sold in bars, taprooms and restaurants), and the number of operating craft breweries continue to grow.

“The number of operating craft breweries continued to climb in 2023, reaching an all-time high of 9,683, including 2,071 microbreweries, 3,467 brewpubs, 3,900 taproom breweries, and 245 regional craft breweries. The total U.S. operating brewery count was 9,812, up from 9,730 in 2022.”

“Throughout the year, there were 495 new brewery openings and 418 closings. Openings decreased for a second consecutive year, with the trend reflecting a more mature market. The closing rate increased in 2023 but continued to remain relatively low, at approximately 4%.

Employment in the sector was also up as many craft breweries continued to shift towards hospitality-focused business model, with an emphasis on the expansion of branded taprooms.

The Bad News

Mirroring the US decline in the overall beer sector, craft brewery production slowed…although craft’s declines were smaller than overall beer volume losses. Craft brewers produced 23.4 million barrels of beer in 2023, a decline of 1.0% from 2022, though craft’s overall beer market share by volume grew to 13.3%, up from 13.1% in 2022.

The overall beer market, which includes small and independent brewers as well as biggies like Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors, shrank 5.1% by volume in 2023.

Retail dollar value was estimated at $28.6 billion, representing a 24.5% market share and 3% growth over a comparable value in 2022. Sales growth was stronger than volume primarily due to pricing but also due to slightly stronger onsite sales growth versus distribution.

“While distribution is as competitive as ever, we continue to see success stories and pockets of growth across the top 50 list,” added the ever-positive Watson. “Even in an era of slow growth, the strongest brands still resonate with beer drinkers, regardless of company size or location.”

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