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The Session #67: How Many Breweries in 2017?

This month marks our first attempt at writing a monthly blog post for The Session Beer Blogging Fridays. To sum up The Session, every month one beer blogger announces a topic and other bloggers write blog posts with their responses to the topic. This month’s topic comes from Ramblings of a Beer Runner, and asks what everyone thinks that the craft beer scene will look like in 2017. Here’s our general overview of what we think is going to happen over the next five years:

Fast-forward to 2017, and there will be over 4,000 breweries in the US. To give an exact number, we’ll go with 4,252, double the number that there are now in 2012. So how did we get here? What does the industry look like?

Over the next five years, we’re under the impression that craft beer can gain anywhere from 10-15% of the market share. The beauty of the industry is that it’s a child who has just learned how to walk, currently at just over 5%, but with no end in sight for growth. Yes, the Big Three will continue to roll out their cleverly-disguised “craft” offerings, and we might even see a few more acquisitions (similar to Goose Island’s acquisition in 2011). But, much to their chagrin, all that this strategy is doing is making craft beer more accessible to the masses.

We will most likely come closer and closer to the pre-prohibition standard of local breweries making beer for local markets. Receptive towns will have a number of small local breweries, which means that only the breweries making truly good beer will be the ones to make it to a higher area of distribution.

The major craft players will have to continue to innovate to keep both investors and imbibers happy. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good Torpedo IPA every now and again, but we want to see what else they can put out (and that’s what people will spend money on). As the IPA craze fades and other styles become more mainstream, it will be interesting to see how the regional giants diversify their lineups.

The other factor to consider is the incoming class of beer-frenzied greenhorns. They are arriving at legal age in a much more colorful market than their elders did. This is, for the most part, the first wave of new drinkers who grew up around craft beer (unlike their parents and grandparents, who grew up around such things as this). They are more likely to have had parents who kept their fridges stocked with something better than Bud, so they’re already used to having better options. This young crowd has an enormous amount of buying power, and thus, the ability to significantly boost the market share.

All in all, things are going to get a lot more crowded, and that’s in no way a bad thing.

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