Micro Market Grows; Beervana Leads the Way

An article caught my eye this morning with the depressing title "Beer sales falling flat while wine, other beverages grow in popularity." The lede was equally depressing:
"U.S. beer shipments last year were flatter than a stale ale, falling 0.1 percent according to the Beer Institute. The industry group says shipments to the U.S. market -- which accounted for about 86 percent of overall business -- declined 2.2 percent to 178.8 million barrels."
I did a little digging, though, and it actually looks like macro sales are falling flat--micros (many of which are no longer micro) are posting robust growth. And Oregon is leading the way. In 2004, according to Modern Brewery Age (.pdf), the big four (AB, Miller, Coors, and Pabst) brewed 171 million barrels of beer; in 2005, they brewed 169 million. Larger regional breweries* also saw their sales decrease from 5.47 million barrels in 2004 to 5.26 in 2005.

Conversely, the top ten craft breweries saw their sales increase rather substantially from 3.29 million barrels. in 2004 to 3.52 million barrels. That's nearly 7% growth. More impressively, all but one of the top ten showed growth in 2005. (Because Pyramid absorbed Portland Brewing in 2004, I threw it out for this calculation.) Here are the big 11 (including Pyramid), with total barrelage and growth in parentheses--and I'll toss in a couple of other Oregon bigs for comparison:
  1. Boston Beer Co. (1.4 million, +7.2%)
  2. Sierra Nevada (612,640, +3.9%)
  3. New Belgium (350,000, +5.7%)
  4. Matt Brewing [Saranac] (251,800, +8%)
  5. Redhook (234,200, +7.1%)
  6. Pyramid (230,500)
  7. Widmer (226,500, +13.8)
  8. Deschutes (144,422, +7.1%)
  9. Alaskan (105,300, +16.5%)
  10. Boulevard (103,584, +16.3%)
  11. Mass Bay [Harpoon] (90,333, -4.5%)
13. Full Sail (85,756, +3.8%)
23. BridgePort (43,432 , +2.2%)
24. Rogue (43,000, +12.%)
Finally, Oregon led all states in growth in 2005, up 100,000 barrels and 3.9%. Washington grew more marginally--36,000 barrels, just .9%, but good enough for 14th place.

To put some context to this, when I first started writing professionally about beer back in 1997, we watched the first major contraction in microbrewing since it got started a couple decades earlier. That slump was a harsh reality for a lot of breweries that had over-extended themselves on unrealistic expectations of growth. Saxer and Nor'wester were early casualties, and Portland Brewing eventually got absorbed from the wound that slump caused. It was a long time before people came back to craft beer, and we're seeing a nice little renaissance now.

Predictably, Beervana leads the way...

These are traditional regional breweries producing more mainstream beers. Some have been purchased by the big three, but are still regional in nature and distribution. They include: Yuengling, City Brewery, Latrobe (recently purchased by AB), High Falls (Genesee), Pittsburgh (Iron City), Leinenkugel, and Spoetzl (Shiner).