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Craft beer boom

THE US has more breweries operating now than it did in its heyday of the late 1880s.

Data from the Brewers Association in the US shows the US had 2011 breweries operating in 1887.

The number fell during the next 30 years to about 1179 before Prohibition shut them all down in 1920 until 1933.

Figures from German hop supplier Barth-Haas Group show beer was still being sold during this period, a product of an illegal trade.

Upon abandoning Prohibition, the number of breweries increased to more than 700 by 1935, before again tapering off to less than 90 by 1980 due to consolidation of the industry.

But from about 1990, the number of breweries operating in the US has skyrocketed.

Joe White Maltings malt marketing manager Rob Dickie told the Australian Grain Industry Conference in Melbourne recently, the explosion in brewery numbers was a result of the craft beer market – although much depended on the definition of “craft”.

Mr Dickie said there had been a 30 per cent growth in craft beer sales in the US from 2010 to 2012.

“If this growth continues it will mean, by 2020, up to 10 per cent of the beer market in the US could be craft beer,” he said.

“This is attractive to maltsters because the craft brewers use roughly twice as much malt as the large brewers do.

“Export volumes of craft beer from the US increased by 52 per cent in 2011.”

Much depended on the definition of a craft beer in the US and elsewhere in the world.

Mr Dickie said a craft brewer in the US was anyone who produced six million barrels of beer. He said that allowed them to slip under the federal alcohol excise level.

In other countries, the definition is contentious, with some of the large brewers claiming craft beer status for some of their high volume products.

Others believe it was “handcrafted”, “traditional brewing” or “hand made”.

One small Australian brewery operator cynically described “craft” brewers as “whoever’s got the most money to market what they want their beer to be”.

Mr Dickie said Australia was believed to now have about 130 craft breweries operating, well above the 11 operating in 1990.

Elsewhere around the world, the industry was booming.

He said France had doubled the number of craft breweries from 295 in 2008 to today’s level of more than 500.

The number of Italian craft breweries had risen from 7 in 1996 to about 450 this year.

Mr Dickie said, in Asia, Shanghai and Beijing had the strongest presence of craft breweries, while South Korea had been granting new licences for craft beer production since 2010.

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