Craft beer sales soar

7% gain in 2004 easily outstrips wine, spirits growth

Feb 22, 2005 - America's craft brewers sold 7% more beer in 2004 versus 2003, making craft beer the fastest growing segment of the US beverage alcohol industry, according to data gathered by the Brewers Association.


"Craft beer volume growth outpaced that of imports, large brewers, wine and spirits in 2004," said Brewers Assocation director Paul Gatza.

The Brewers Association estimates 2004 sales by craft brewers at 7,023,651 barrels (31 gallons), up from 6,563,461 barrels in 2003, an increase of 460,190 barrels or 6.34 million case-equivalents. Spirits volume increased at 3.1% for the year and wine volume was up 2.7%. The import and mass-market segments of the beer industry rose approximately 1.4% and 0.5% in volume respectively in 2004.

The craft beer segment includes more than 1,400 breweries that produce primarily all-malt beers. It includes brewpubs (brewery/restaurant), microbreweries (less than 15,000 barrels per year) and specialty brewers. The association has tabulated industry growth data for these breweries annually since 1985.

"The craft beer segment continues to show healthy and steady growth with many individual brewers enjoying double-digit volume increases," said BA president Charlie Papazian. "This year the craft segment sold more new barrels of beer than the much larger import segment of the beer market."

According to US Department of Commerce figures, sales of imported beer in the US increased by 1.4% or 4.6 million cases in 2004. Even though craft beer accounts for only 3.2% of the beer marketplace versus more than 11% share for imports, craft beer sales in 2004 increased by 6.34 million cases - 1.78 million more new cases compared to imports.

"Craft beer sales increased faster than imports for the second year in a row," said Gatza. "This reverses the trend seen between 1996 and 2002 when import volume grew at a faster rate."

"Americans increasingly prefer the flavor and diversity of fresh, locally made beers," says Papazian. "Many Americans first discovered full-flavored beers at local breweries and now the diverse and exciting choices among those flavorful brews have become a regular part of their lifestyle."