Craft Beer’s Days of Explosive Growth Are Over

March 27, 2018, 3:43 PM UTC

The days of eye-popping growth numbers for the craft beer industry seem to be over.

Year-end 2017 sales data just released by The Brewers Association, the trade group for independent brewers, shows craft beer production volumes were up 5% last year—on par with how the industry was tracking in the middle of the year.

All totaled, the craft beer industry saw sales of $26 billion, or 23.4% of the overall beer market. That’s $2.5 billion better than 2016 and $3.7 billion better than 2015. Percentage growth has slowed, though.

As of the end of 2017, there were 6,266 craft breweries operating in the U.S., more than double the total from 2013—and a 16% increase from 2016. Just under 1,000 opened in 2017 alone (with 126 going out of business).

“Growth for the craft brewing industry is adapting to the new realities of a mature market landscape,” said Bart Watson, chief economist for The Brewers Association. “Beer lovers are trending toward supporting their local small and independent community craft breweries. At the same time, as distribution channels experience increased competition and challenges, craft brewer performance was more mixed than in recent years, with those relying on the broadest distribution facing the most pressure.”

Growth has been slowing for a while for craft brewers as the market reaches saturation. Drinkers are becoming more selective and exploring other types of alcohol as well. Even macro brewers have seen some shifts in recent years.

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