As the snow began to fall outside the Colorado Convention Center in Denver in day two of the Craft Brewers Conference, the talk inside the center turned to slower growth in the industry. Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association said during the General Session that the 4% growth for craft beer in 2018 was “the new norm” given the steady decline in segment growth over the last four years. Craft beer growth has fallen from 18% in 2014 to 12%, 6% and 4% in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.
The good news is that craft is still growing. The overall beer market was down nearly 1% in 2018. The bad news is that more breweries are coming online, with estimated 2,500 breweries “in planning,” according to Watson.
The slower growth combined with a continuing steady increase in new brewery openings portends a competitive marketplace going forward. Over 3,100 new breweries have opened in the last three years.
Also during the day 2 General Session, the BA Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing was awarded to Lauren Woods Limbach, wood cellar director at New Belgium Brewing and the F.X. Matt Defense of the Industry Award was handed out to Illinois Craft Brewers Guild executive director Danielle D’Alessandro.