National Craft Brewing Numbers (*)

Craft brewing sales were up in 2009--a remarkable fact given how bad the economy was. This story has been circulating for a few days now (and was even reported on OPB this morning). Some of the facts, bullet-style:
  • Sales in craft beer were up 7.2% by volume and 10.3% by sales--exceeding the rate of growth in 2008;
  • Overall beer sales fell 2.2%, and sales on imports fell 9.8% (but, keep in mind that Stella Artois, Corona, and Heineken are imports, not just brands like Cantillon and Fuller's);
  • Craft breweries produced 9.1 million barrels, but still enjoy only a modest 4.3% of the total beer market.
This is of course good news--and way better than the alternative. But looking at numbers in the aggregate conceals the performance of individual breweries--and based on murmurs I heard, there was substantial volatility. We'll get a fuller report in April, and then we'll have a better sense of how things are going.

Update. As an example, Boston Beer missed its sales goals for the fourth quarter. Barrels sales dropped 14% in Q4 compared with the same quarter a year earlier. It's only one data point--but a pretty big one.