As much as we love gazing into our crystal balls and divining what happened in the beer world in 2016, data provide the best frame for retrospective discussions on the year. As our list of the Top 25 beers of 2016 illustrates, this was an amazing year to be a beer drinker. Quality, variety and creativity in beer continue to expand, resulting in more delicious sips than ever before. The Brewers Association, an industry organization dedicated to the success of small and independent craft breweries (read its definition of craft here), recently released its 2016 year in review data. Here are the major takeaways:
There are 5,005 breweries in the U.S. as of November 30, 2016, and we’ve likely added dozens to that number since. Seem like a lot? It is; that’s about 100 per state, if you divided it evenly. (The BA points out that there are 10,000 wineries in the U.S., for comparison.)
Craft beer production volume grew 8 percent through June 30, 2016. That’s solid, steady growth for breweries that meet the BA’s definition of craft. But while dollar sales growth also continued for craft beer, it had at midyear slowed to a rate that was its lowest since 2014. It’s not going to be smooth sailing ahead for every brewery, as they face competition not just from each other but from wine and spirits as well.
IPAs represent a quarter of craft beer volume. Does it feel like every fourth six-pack on the shelf is an IPA? Well, yeah, that would be about right. The BA points out that what they refer to as “more sessionable styles” like golden ales, pilsners and pale lagers are up 33 percent, but they still total just under five percent of craft volume. (Count us in for a great craft pilsner any day.)
American beer abroad rakes in $116 million for craft breweries. Craft beer export volume increased by 16.3 percent this year, totaling 446,151 barrels. More than 100 BA-defined craft breweries sell their beer abroad. American beer, once disregarded on the world stage, is now influencing styles, ingredient choice and even beer marketing in countries from England to Spain to Thailand.
Homebrewing generated more than $1 billion in spending, created more than 11,000 jobs and now totals about 1.2 million participants nationwide.
47% of people say they’ve visited a brewery while traveling this year, according to a Nielsen panel cited by BA craft beer program director Julia Herz during this year’s GABF. (Speaking of GABF, it generated the equivalent of 2 percent of Denver’s GDP, accounting for $28.6 million, according to Visit Denver.) Travelocity created the Beer Tourism Index this year to track beer-related travel; the top large metro areas for “beercations” were Portland, Oregon; Denver; Seattle; Portland, Maine; Colorado Springs; and Santa Rosa/Petaluma.
Oh, and now might be a fun time to look back on what beer insiders predicted for 2016 a whole year ago. Who nailed it?