Craft breweries at a record high


National News

August 2, 2018 - 11:05 AM

Craft breweries are on pace to see a record number of openings and closings in 2018, according to the Brewers Association.
As of June 30, the nation was home to 6,655 breweries, the most in modern history. A year ago, the figure was 5,562. Thirty years ago — the year Chicago’s longest-tenured brewery, Goose Island Beer Co., opened — that number was less than 200.
Craft beer as defined by the Brewers Association, a Colorado-based trade organization, continues to see steady though unspectacular growth, clocking in at 5 percent during the first half of 2018, just as it was in 2017.
Production volume for craft brewers also increased 5 percent during the first half of 2018, the Brewers Association said.
“While more mature, the market continues to show demand for small and independent craft brewers,” Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist, said in a statement released Tuesday. “There are certainly industry headwinds, but this stabilized growth rate is reflective of the market realities that exist for brewers today.”
Despite the high number of both openings and closings in an industry that barely existed a generation ago, Watson said “openings continue to far outpace the number that shutter.”
He declined to release specific numbers of openings or closings until the end of the year, when the data are more reliable.
“Both the opening and closing numbers are higher than what we were tracking at this point last year, but I’d prefer to avoid specific numbers since they will be easily misinterpreted,” he said.
Chicago has the fifth-highest number of breweries of any city in the nation, Watson has said. In recent weeks, it has seen one closing: Baderbrau Brewing, the parts of which are up for auction until Wednesday.
The Brewers Association defines a craft brewery as “small” (annual production 6 million barrels of beer or less), “traditional” (a majority of production is derived “from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients”) and “independent” (less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a company that is not itself a craft brewer).
The definition of “independent” means Brewers Association statistics do not include a large amount of volume that would otherwise be considered “craft,” such as breweries acquired by Anheuser-Busch (including Goose Island), Lagunitas (owned by Heineken) and Ballast Point (owned by Constellation Brands), among a handful of other brands

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