As of right now—May 2019—there are about 7,500 breweries in the United States. From 2016-2018, the Brewers Association counted about two new breweries opening every day, and in that time, the size, scope, and potential of what those businesses could become has quickly changed.
Year-to-year volume growth for Brewers Association-defined craft beer dropped to 4% last year, a decline of 1% from 2017 and the lowest growth rate in a decade. Industry conversations now focus on going a “mile deep,” not a “mile wide.” In other words, staying small and local—while embracing close-to-home and taproom sales—is becoming a safer and more secure way to grow, albeit slower and with greater intent. As the beer category slows and more companies focus on staying small and local, the idea of “growth” as a business concept is changing.
To better get a sense of what this change means, GBH connected with Bart Watson, the economist from the Brewers Association, and Tom Madden, co-founder of Lone Pine Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. With a mix of industry stats and real-life case study, we hope to get to the bottom of what growth looks like in a slowing beer industry. Listen in.