Just as with life, everything we see in business means something, including the fact that we’re hearing more about craft brewery closings lately.
It used to be that much of the week’s beer news revolved around what new brewery was opening…And while there’s still plenty of those kinds of announcements…We’re beginning to see more news of craft breweries closings.
For decades craft beer has been on a roll…seemingly unstoppable and consistently posting double-digit growth.
But recently the industry has been undeniably slowing.
Craft beer sales in 2016 grew only 6.2% in 2016, fine numbers if you’re selling fast food, but certainly not what craft beer has been accustomed to.
And even with the number of breweries currently operating at an all-time high, the total number of breweries coming online each year has been in decline since 2014. And brewery closings for that same three year period have been on the rise.
So what’s actually going on is subject to all kinds of speculation most of it polite…But how can you not consider that craft beer in the states may have reached some kind of saturation point?
We’ve entered an era where hot new breweries are taking away market share from older breweries, who took away market share from breweries before them.
At the same time, craft beer, as Bart Watson the Brewers Association’s Chief Economist puts it, has become middle-aged. It’s moved from being the hot young band burning up the charts, to arena rock performers – still hugely popular, but more the norm now and not quite as cool as they once were.
Draft Magazine’s Zach Fowle recently surveyed five owners of breweries on what lead them to close down their operations and it was insightful. Issues like stagnant growth, the age of the brewery and distribution problems all got mentioned…
And we’ll mention another…that is brutal in its simplicity…supply and demand.