The Number of Breweries May Be Up, But Beer Consumption Is Still Down

Breweries more than doubled between 2007 and 2012, despite the trend away from beer. The answer: craft beer.

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
July 7, 2014, 6:17 a.m.

It may not seem like it after a booze-filled Fourth of Ju­ly week­end, but Amer­ic­ans are drink­ing less and less beer now.

This isn’t ac­tu­ally a new trend. Gal­lup data show that beer pref­er­ence has stead­ily de­clined in re­cent years. As of 2013, just 36 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans say they prefer beer, in line with the 35 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans who say they prefer wine. That’s a 20-point swing in 20 years.

New num­bers from Beer Mar­keter’s In­sights show that the trend is con­tinu­ing, as U.S. beer con­sump­tion de­clined from 28.3 gal­lons per drink­ing-age per­son in 2012 to 27.6 gal­lons in 2013. From 2002 to 2012, the study notes, beer con­sump­tion de­clined 8.6 per­cent, while wine con­sump­tion in­creased by 15.2 per­cent and spir­it con­sump­tion rose by 20.9 per­cent.

What’s in­ter­est­ing, though, is that there are more brew­er­ies in the U.S. — up from 398 in 2007 to 869 in 2012 — ac­cord­ing to new U.S. Census Bur­eau data. And those brew­er­ies are em­ploy­ing more people than ever be­fore, with the work­force jump­ing 17.2 per­cent in five years to 23,456 em­ploy­ees.

So, how is it that the num­ber of brew­er­ies is go­ing up in the U.S., but beer con­sump­tion is go­ing down? The an­swer is craft beer.

The largest in­crease in the num­ber of brew­er­ies in the United States over the five-year peri­od is with those that have few­er than 20 em­ploy­ees (the size of most craft brew­er­ies) — ac­count­ing for 295 brew­er­ies in 2007 and 705 in 2012.

As The Wall Street Journ­al re­por­ted:

Craft beer has man­aged to stand out, pos­sibly be­cause of its fo­cus on styles and fla­vors”¦. Samuel Adams Bo­ston La­ger in­creased its volume of beer sold by 2% in 2012, reach­ing nearly 15 mil­lion cases.

While ship­ments of beer went up from $21.2 bil­lion in 2007 to $28.3 bil­lion in 2012, that sort of in­crease doesn’t ne­ces­sar­ily trans­late to more con­sump­tion. Rather, it’s likely be­cause of the high­er price of craft beer.

So, while you may opt for the pinot over the pils­ner, it’s hard to avoid see­ing the new craft beers that seem to pop up every week.

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