Has craft beer reached its peak? In a sign that the industry has become less frothy, more craft breweries closed in 2017 than at any time in the last decade.
And although artisanal brewers saw more growth in production than the general market last year, their pace is slowing. .
A new report from the Brewers Association, a trade association representing small, independent US craft brewers, showed that beer makers saw a 5 percent increase in production volume in 2017. However, with This growth comes from an increasingly crowded playing field, leading to more closures of small craft breweries. In 2017, there were almost 1,000 new brewery openings across the country and 165 closures, a 2.6 percent closing rate. That's a jump of 42 percent since 2016, when 116 craft breweries closed.
Experts say that saturation is still far away, and that setback is inevitable for any booming industry that, over time, begins to mature.
"We have seen a bit of a slowdown," said Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association. "When you talk about an industry that sells tens of billions of dollars a year, it is difficult to grow at double-digit rates."
The growth of the craft brewing industry began in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Watson said. , and has seen a resurgence in the last decade. With consumers tending to skew men, youth, whites and higher incomes, the industry took hold among adults willing to pay more for the beer that tasted better than the mass-produced products that had dominated the market for a long time.
breweries compete with each other for taps in restaurants and shelf space at retailers. However, they are also against the big industrial brewers that exert a great influence on the national distribution of beer and often buy smaller companies. In 2011, for example, Anheuser-Busch InBev bought the Goose Island craft brewery for almost $ 39 million, the first is a series of similar acquisitions.
"Larger brewers have many ways to penetrate the market, instead of relying on consumer appeal," Watson said.
Matt Simpson, owner of craft beer consultancy The Beer Sommelier, said the slowdown is natural after "an initial explosion." There are many reasons why brewers will not be able to keep up.
Part of that sacrifice, he said, is the result of homebrewers who do not know how to successfully run a business or market products. At the same time, the industry has revived the enthusiasm among craft beer aficionados who set out to found a company and, sometimes, create bad beer. Simpson even recalled a recent conference of craft brewers in which one speaker said that if newcomers did not produce good products, "they were going to be the death of home-made".
"Most brewers that enter the market make good beer," Simpson said, "but some bad apples can spoil everything."
With more than 6,300 breweries operating in the United States in 2017, small, independent brewers accounted for almost 13 percent of the volume market share of the beer industry in general. Craft brewers produced 25.4 million barrels in 2017, with an estimated retail value of $ 26 billion, according to the Brewers Association. For much of the last decade, the industry's growth rate remained in double digits, reaching 18 percent growth in 2013 and 2014.
The total beer market fell 1 percent in volume in 2017 , a decrease of around 2.4 million barrels from the previous year. Watson said the decline partly reflects the growing competition of beer with wines and spirits.
Still, Watson and Simpson agreed that it will take time for the industry to reach full saturation. And although at a slower pace, craft breweries continue to grow.
"Craft beer tastes better than macro-industrial lagers, which have survived for decades using bikini-clad women and famous sports figures," said Simpson. "They have made some really moving or funny announcements, but that does not improve their products."