The Brewers Association has released the figures for 2008 craft beer sales and the short version is that craft beer is growing while industrial beer and imports are not. Here is the long version:

Brewers Association Announces 2008 Craft Brewer Sales Numbers

Today’s Beer and Wine Drinkers Moving to Full Flavor Craft Beer and Buying Closer to Home While Small Brewers Gain Alcohol Market Share

Boulder, CO – Monday, February 23, 2009 – The Brewers Association, which tabulates industry growth data for U.S. breweries, announced that today’s small independent craft brewers are gaining alcohol market share due to a shift toward full flavor beer and increased support for local breweries. From 2007 to 2008, estimated sales by craft brewers were up 5.8 percent by volume and 10.5 percent in dollars¹. Overall share of the beer category from craft brewers was 4.0 percent of production and 6.3 percent of retail sales. More than 1 million new barrels of beer were sold in 2008, and close to half of those barrels were beer from craft brewers.

“2008 was a historic year for beer with the large brewers consolidating and imports losing share, while the top ten selling beer brands dropped in sales. At the same time, small independent craft brewers continued to gain share and attention,” said Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association.

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With total U.S. beer being more than a $100 billion industry, the Brewers Association estimates the actual dollar sales from craft brewers in 2008 were $6.34 billion, up from $5.74 billion in 2007. Taxable barrels of the total beer category was 1,210,018 more in 2008 with craft brewers producing 473,364 of those barrels. Total craft brewer barrels for 2008 was 8,596,971, up from 8,123,607 barrels in 2007.

Beer’s popularity as America’s favorite fermented beverage continued in 2008 with Gallup stating “beer is back to a double-digit lead over wine.” Taking into account the challenges in today’s economy, BevincoNielsen released a survey showing beer was faring better than spirits, with wine lagging. The Brewers Association emphasized trading across from wine and spirits to beer continues, with some of today’s wine drinkers discovering the affordable enjoyment and rewards of craft beer.

These increases in share and barrels for craft brewers come at a time when, according to the Brewers Association, the cost of operating a small brewery increased over 39 percent in the period of November 2007 to November 2008. The Brewers Association states that today’s craft brewers face many challenges including:

  • Access to ingredients and raw materials
  • Increased pricing for materials and supplies
  • Access to market (competition for shelf space at the retail level)

For more statistics visit 2008 Craft Beer Industry Statistics. A more extensive analysis will be released April 22 during the Craft Brewers Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. The Association’s full 2008 industry analysis, which shows regional trends and sales by individual brewery, will be published in the May/June issue of The New Brewer.

¹Sales by craft brewers represent total taxable production. Dollars reported by Information Resources Inc. for total U.S. supermarkets.

The definition of a craft brewer as stated by the Brewers Association: An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional. Small: Annual production of beer less than 2 million barrels. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition. Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer. Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.