Up 18 %…

Craft beer production is up 18 percent in the first half of 2014

To all those who have been waiting for the craft-beer bubble to burst, the Brewers Association sent a definitive message: It’s not coming anytime soon.

Through the first half of 2014, production of locally made beer is up 18 percent from the mid-point of 2013, according to the Boulder-based national industry group.

This comes as national shipments of all beer are down 0.1 percent through the end of May — a disparity that Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, said tells a striking story about craft beer’s rising popularity.

“This is certainly the fastest mid-year growth we’ve seen in the current period of growth,” said Watson. He noted that the only time production increases have exceeded 18 percent were in the 1980s and early 1990s, when there were far fewer breweries to use as a base for comparison. “I think it continues to show the sustainability of craft beer. The demand is strong and diffuse across the country.”

The Brewers Association also reported that 502 breweries opened between July 1, 2013 and June 30 of this year — a rate of almost 10 per week. A study released earlier this year showed that Colorado, which is considered to be one of the leading craft-beer states in America, became home to an average of more than one new brewery per week in 2013.

There were 3,040 total breweries operating in the country as of mid-year, with another 1,929 breweries in planning, the Brewers Association said.

The production numbers — 10.6 million barrels of beer were sold in the first half of 2014 by craft brewers — include a number of larger breweries that fit under a newly expanded definition of craft beer.

Traditionally, the Brewers Association defined a craft brewer as one making 6 million gallons of beer or less per year, one for which less than 25 percent of the brewery is owned by a non-craft-brewing alcoholic beverage company and one that made the majority of its beers as all-malt offerings without adjuncts like rice or corn.

However, the organization’s board voted this year to remove the all-malt requirement and replace it with a broader definition of having a majority of beer made from “traditional or innovative brewing ingredients,” allowing some longtime breweries such as D.G. Yuengling & Son of Pennsylvania and August Schell Brewing Co. of Minnesota to count themselves among the craft beer ranks.

In order to give a more accurate comparison of growth, the production levels of these newly included breweries were added retroactively to the 2013 numbers, bringing that production up to 9 million gallons.

The Brewers Association did not include sales growth for craft breweries in this year’s mid-year comparison. Rather than ask about sales numbers in mid-year as it does at the end of the year, the group typically extrapolates those based on past years — something it did not want to do with the newly added craft breweries, Watson said.

Craft beer sales have risen at least 10 percent year over year for the first six months each year since 2010.

Even without those sales numbers, though, officials said that craft beer is continuing its rapid growth, especially in comparison to the flat overall market for beer that includes major breweries and imported beers.

“Certainly craft is, at least in terms of volume, succeeding more,” Watson said.

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