Craft Beer 2017: An Amazing Year in Review

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flickr: Tyler Ingram
Seal of Approval

Remember what it was like to live in a craft-beer city? Me either. Every small town in America now claims that title, and with good reason. According to the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, 83 percent of the country’s population now lives within 10 miles of a local brewery. That’s staggering. We could debate whether or not that’s actually improved beer, but it doesn’t change this reality: Craft beer is more popular in America today than it has been since Revolutionary War times.

“This has been an incredible year for the craft beer community with both challenges and successes. Emphasized more than ever before is the need to advocate for and educate beer drinkers on the importance and value of craft brewers to our nation and our culture,” said Julia Herz, craft beer program director, Brewers Association, in a statement. “What is especially gratifying is watching the positive impacts beer tourism and independent breweries are having on local communities.”

The Brewers Association offered some highlights from 2017, a 12-month period of beer exploration it’s referring to as a “watershed year for craft beer.” Here are some of the highlights.

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Brewers Association
What's in store for beer in 2018?
Steady Growth

Data shows that 6,000 breweries were in operation during 2017, with 98 percent being categorized as small and independent craft brewers. That’s also a pretty mind-boggling statistic. Take it back a year: In 2016, there were more than 5,300 breweries, and small and independents made up 12.3 percent of market share. That market share number is probably pretty similar today, given how big-box operators continue to gobble up independents (looking at you Wicked Weed and Anheuser-Busch). That trend is only going to continue. Again, much could be debated about the merits of such acquisitions. A topic for another time.

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flickr: Bernt Rostad
Jobs and Economic Impact
The Brewer’s Association releases a biennial analysis featuring economic data on craft brewing called the Economic Impact Report. The latest data showed, based on information from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, that craft brewers contributed $67.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016, a 21.7 percent increase from 2017. Craft brewers were responsible for more than 456,373 full-time equivalent jobs, a 7.5 percent increase from 2017. Of those jobs, 128,768 were directly at breweries and brewpubs. In other terms, if you want a career in beer, it’s time to consider leaving the cubicle or garage behind.
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The Brewers Association
Independent Craft Brewer Seal
Back in late June, the Brewer’s Association launched a new seal touting independent craft brewers. Featuring an iconic beer bottle shape flipped upside down, it was designed to educate beer lovers about which beers are independently produced. This was a great idea for brewers. A study commissioned by Brewbound and conducted by Nielsen found that “independent” and “independently owned” strongly resonated with the majority (81 percent) of craft beer drinkers. It’s kind of like putting “local” or pretty much any menu item. To date, more than 2,700 small and independent craft brewing companies, representing more than 75 percent of domestic volume, have signed on to use the seal, the Brewer’s Association reports. The seal is available for use free of charge by any of the more than 5,300 small and independent American craft brewers that have a valid TTB Brewer’s Notice, meet the BA’s craft brewer definition, and sign a license agreement. It is available to both member and non-member breweries of the BA.
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flickr: Allen
Can’t Beat ’Em? Buy ’Em
I couldn’t tell if this was real back in October. The Brewer’s Association launched a #TakeCraftBack campaign looking to crowdsource funds to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev. I guess that amounts to somewhere north of $200 billion. Update: nearly 12,000 craft beer lovers have pledged their support, the Brewer’s Association says. Was it legit? I think it was an effective campaign to bring light to the big companies hording local brewers by cutting blank checks. Since 2011, Anheuser-Busch InBev has purchased 10 small and independent breweries. And as the Brewer’s Association explained in October, they don’t exactly promote this information on packaging, which creates “an illusion of choice,” the organization explained. A big drawback here is how difficult it’s becoming for beer drinkers to locate independent craft beers at bars and stores thanks to this trend. But will it end? Unlikely.
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flickr: Martin Garrido
Bipartisan Beer Support
The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA), championed by Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Ron Kind (D-WI) and Senator Bob Portman (R-OH), was reintroduced in the 115th Congress and reached a majority of support in both houses. Brewers will be following this closely. If passed, the bill, which was added as an amendment to the larger Senate Tax Reform Bill in November, would significantly reduce the federal excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels of any domestic brewery that produces fewer than 2 million barrels a year. It would also lower the federal excise tax on barrelage up to 6 million barrels. If that’s not worth toasting, I don’t know what is.
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flickr: zolakoma
Homebrewing Heats Up
That one co-worker trying to get you to try his beard yeast beer? He’s not going anyway anytime soon. According to the Brewers Association, there are an estimated 1.1 million homebrewers stirring up batches in the U.S. In 2017, they produced more than 1.4 million barrels of beer, or about 1 percent of total U.S. beer production. More proof: the National Homebrew Competition, which the American Homebrewers Association hosts, continues to be the world’s largest beer competition with 8,816 entries from 3,530 homebrewers worldwide.
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flickr: Patrick Berry
Beercations and Tap Rooms Are Boomin’
Beer tourism is now a thing. Data shows that the average craft drinker visits 3.5 breweries near their home and 2.5 breweries within two hours’ driving distance. Also, 64 percent of people surveyed said visiting a brewery or tap room was a new or different beer drinking occasion. Basically, brewery visits have opened a new sales channel for beer. Think about it. When you visit a new place, kind of like seeking a winery in Napa, do you head for the local brewery’s tap room? On a recent trip to Boulder, Colorado, stopping at Avery Brewing Company was as important as looking at the mountains for me.
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Craft brewers donated an estimated $73.4 million to charitable causes in 2016, up from $71 million in 2014. This is a nice angle to the increased growth of the industry.

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