This coming weekend we were supposed to fly to San Antonio for the start of the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC). Instead, like most everyone, we are all sheltering at home watching one day turn into another day. Even though we can’t be in San Antonio, the Brewers Association is streaming some of the conference content via Crowdcast. The best part is that it’s free for anyone, not just those who paid for the conference. In fact, everyone who purchased a ticket received a 100% refund. Obviously, that is a huge hit to the Brewers Association. Remember to renew your membership when it comes due this year. It may hurt to think about paying those membership dues, but the Brewers Association just lost one of their largest annual fundraisers.
Not every speaker is participating in the online conference, so check the listing to see if the presentations that you wanted to hear are available.
State of the Industry Presentation Discusses Craft Beer Trends
I look forward to Bart Watson’s presentation every year. Bart is the Chief Economist for the Brewers Association. His ‘state of the industry’ overview helps me assign context to what I saw in the prior year, confirms some of my thinking, and helps me see things in a new way. And once again, he didn’t disappoint. He talked about ‘better for you’ health trend and how it is changing the craft beer marketplace. Craft beer share increased a bit from 13% in 2018 to 13.6% in 2019. Craft beer volume growth increased 4% in 2019 vs a 2% decline in beer overall. Keep in mind that these numbers use the Brewers Association definition of craft beer. With the large consolidation over the last couple of years, his numbers will miss a big segment of the craft marketplace.
At the end of 2019, there were 8,275 craft breweries in operation. During 2019, there were 294 breweries closing but 942 breweries opening. Even before coronavirus, Bart was expecting to see 400 to 500 breweries close. That will only accelerate with the stay-at-home orders in place due to coronavirus.
Looking at the ‘Decade of Beer’ in a New Light
This time, Bart referenced the ‘decade of beer’. The last craft beer decline happened in the latter part of the 1990’s, so it was interesting to see that decade detailed out. It was also helpful to see how craft beer evolved and changed throughout the most recent decade. Believe it or not, my first phone call from the industry happened in November 2010, so it was interesting to see the huge spike in breweries and beer volume in the years leading up to 2020.
Now we are looking at some contraction in breweries and modest growth in volume. That is probably the story for the next couple of years. We have all grown up in this last decade and we have a brand new group of 20 somethings who have different ideas than the group before them.
The recording available was the presentation that Bart had prepared for the CBC conference. He mentioned that he will do another presentation at the end of the virtual CBC on the current status of the industry. That should be fascinating and not to be missed. I will share the link when the recording is posted. Knowledge is power and the more that we understand, the better we can react.