U.S. craft beer sales grew 3.4% in 2003, according to figures gathered by the Association of Brewers. “2003 was a difficult year for the beer industry, but it was another solid year for craft breweries,” said Paul Gatza, director of the Association of Brewers. “Overall consumption was down, and imports’ growth rate of 1.9% was the lowest figure for import growth in 12 years. What this means is that craft beers are increasingly making headway in the areas of market share and consumer enjoyment.”
Growth was fueled by regional specialty brewers (those who produce 15,000-2,000,000 barrels). Their production was up 433,111 barrels (10.9%), offsetting losses by contract brewers, microbreweries and brewpubs. Some of those regional specialty brewers were classified as microbreweries in 2001, and the regional gains/micro losses are skewed because those breweries grew into the regional category.
The 3.4% growth rate equals the 3.4% growth posted by craft beer in 2002. “One difference,” Gatza says, “is the 2003 growth rate occurred in a year when the overall beer market in the U.S. declined due to extreme weather, a sluggish economy and war concerns. The fact that the craft beer industry grew at a greater rate than imports for the first time since 1996 shows a shift in the choices being made by the American consumer.”
In 2003, the craft beer industry produced 6,653,461 million barrels of craft beer in the United States. One barrel equals 31 U.S. gallons (13.78 cases). The total U.S. craft beer industry annual retail sales value for 2003 was more than $3.5 billion.
The Association of Brewers reports 1,426 craft breweries operated in the United States in 2003: 986 brewpubs, 385 microbreweries and 55 regional specialty breweries.