Brewers Association

Craft Beer Backgrounder

Are you a journalist reporting on craft brewers and their success or challenges? Here are some tidbits, facts and muses that should resonate and further spread the word on why craft beer has changed the beer landscape in the U.S. and globally.

American Brewing History

Prepro3

  • First known brewery opens in what now is Manhattan.
  • Virtually every Founding Father either made or enjoyed beer.
  • Soldiers in colonial times were reported to have been paid in beer.
  • In the 1800s, the U.S. mostly drank ale.
  • In the 1870s, there were 3,200 breweries.


PostProhibition3

  • 1976: New Albion Brewery is founded
  • 1978: U.S. Congress passes H.R. 1337 exempting a certain amount of homebrewed beer to be brewed for personal use. There were 42 brewing companies (that owned 89 brewing facilities between them).
  • 1979: Deregulation of Prohibiton era restriction helped to rebuild America's brewery population
  • Lager is the dominate beer drank in the US



  • Today 98% of the more than 2,500 breweries in the U.S. are small and independent (see Craft Brewing Statistics).
  • American tastes are changing. Look at coffee, tea, cheese, chocolate, bread and yes, beer. The public wants choices and flavor and diversity in the category of brands that they buy. For example, Nielsen research confirmed that beer drinkers are shifting to more robust beer styles and we know from Information Resources (IRI) that seasonal beer is one of the top selling craft beer categories.
  • American Craft Brewers are known for making fuller-flavored ales and lagers and are revered worldwide for their innovation of classic beer styles.
  • Small and independent craft brewers are known for being passionate and innovative makers of fuller-flavored beer.
  • The Brewers Association has defined more than 100 beer styles (see The Brewers Association 2012 Beer Style Guidelines (PDF file)).
  • Craft brewers are amazing community citizens, contributing millions of dollars to their local communities and providing an estimated 108,440 jobs all across the U.S.
  • On average, most Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery, and hundreds of thousands of people have toured or tasted at their local brewery.
  • American craft brewers are recognized for making some of the best beer in the world.  The Brewers Association reported record exports of American craft beer in 2012—which totaled over 189,000 barrels of beer and was valued at an estimated $94.5 million. This was a dramatic increase of 72 percent by volume and 76 percent by dollars over 2011 exports.

Craft Brewers' Challenges

The U.S. is a beer-loving nation first and foremost. Sales figures show 2011 U.S. beer sales surpassed sales of wine and liquor combined. Note that American craft brewers, defined as small, independent and traditional by the Brewers Association (see Craft Brewer Defined), have seen continued growth, yet in 2012 have only captured approximately 10% of overall national beer sales. Craft brewers, against many odds, have been a successful business sector despite a decrease in national beer sales.

To put things into perspective, sales for craft brewers ($8.7 billion in 2011) were similar to sales of Champagne in the U.S. at that same time. Despite these numbers, the local brewpub, microbrewery or regional craft brewer has been beating the odds amidst some very tough challenges.

Find a US Brewery

Looking for a brewery? Surf through the most comprehensive list continually updated by BA staff.  

Craft Beer Statistics

See Craft Beer Stats for more information.

Brewers Association

Purpose

To promote and protect American craft brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts.