Brewers Association 2012 Numbers: Ten Percent

The Brewers Association has the latest numbers out on their members' annual performance and, as we've grown used to seeing, they're eye-popping.  The topline results:
  • Member breweries produced 13.24 million barrels
  • BA member breweries now control 6.5% of the market (up nearly a point in one year)
  • BA member breweries earned 10.2% of the retail sales in the $99 billion market, up over a point from a year earlier.
  • Total breweries in the US (not just BA member breweries) increased by a net 366 to 2,403.
Identify the key stat there?  I suspect the brewery total will get the most attention--and it's a gaudy figure.  But it's meaningless: there are over 7,000 wineries in the US, too, but what does that tell us?  Almost none of those breweries will make more than a few hundred barrels of beer, so together they amount to about one Full Sail-sized craft brewery.  The total production soaring over 13 million is more impressive--just two years ago they were still below 10 million--as is that figure about total market share.

But what really catches the eye is the one about sales.  Keep in mind that 10% only counts member breweries--if you look at the total market for non-macro lager it's probably around 15%.  And that is easily enough to put the whole business of selling beer upside down, particularly when you look at the trend line.  As recently as a generation ago, mass-market domestic lagers controlled almost the entire market--97, 98% of it.  Since then, thanks to imports, craft beer, and whatever you want to call that category Blue Moon is in, it has continued to dwindle annually.  And it's now in freefall: in 2011, BA's member breweries sold $8.7 billion of beer.  They took another 1.5% of the market in one year.

Americans' beer tastes are changing, and I don't think there's any doubt but that we've reached a tipping point.  To what is not clear, but the country is not about to revert to drinking only mass market lagers.