What's Brewing: The Business of Beer


The 12th annual craft beer week, held May 15-21, allows beer aficionados from coast to coast the opportunity to not only sample a wide range of brews, but to celebrate the ever-evolving craft beer culture. And let’s face it: there’s a lot to celebrate. Currently, there are more than 5,000 breweries in the United States — up from 1,396 in 1997—and many of them will be holding special events including exclusive brewery tours, beer brunches, tap takeovers, pairing parties and much more

What Is A Craft Brewer?

Let’s start at the beginning: What exactly is a craft brewer? A small, independent brewer that produces less than 6 million barrels of beer a year. 

One of the hallmarks of a craft brewer is innovation; they are constantly introducing new flavors and experimenting with varying styles. IPA remains, by far, the most popular style of craft beer. But other recent trends include the explosive growth of sour beers, saisons (a single malt farmhouse-style ale), and lagers —the most popular type of beer in the world that has traditionally been snubbed by craft brewers. Fruit beers are nothing new, but the last year has seen the proliferation of more exotic options; mango beer anyone? 

Secrets Behind A Brewer's Marketing

Craft breweries often function as community hubs; they sponsor events, donate products and get involved in local philanthropy. Savvy event planners know they are a popular spot for a wide range of functions, from bachelorette parties to big corporate meetings.  Brewery-related tourism is also booming.  A growing number of travelers are happily plunking down big bucks to check out craft breweries, hit a rapidly growing number of local “beer trails” or to participate in a beer-themed event or festival. The three-day Great American Beer Festival in Denver, held every fall, remains the nation’s largest beer event; tickets routinely sell out in minutes.  Entrepreneurial folks are finding ways to cash in. Just last month a new company, the Damn Good Beer Bus,  started offering tours of 11 breweries in Florida’s Palm Beach County.

Going Rogue, Going Local

Craft brewers are increasingly trying to use local ingredients in their beers; fresh fruit and honey are perhaps the best examples. Rogue Ales & Spirits makes its beers using only ingredients, including honey and hops, grown on one of its two Oregon farms. In New York’s Hudson Valley, self-proclaimed “hoptometrist” Justin Riccobono, who started the region’s first commercial hop farm, now grows his own hops for use in local breweries and also acts as a consultant for a growing number of other hop farmers. He thinks that tour of local hop yards could be the next agritourism trend.  

Is Beer A Big Business Or A Big Bubble?

Clearly, nobody can dispute that beer is big business. But is there a craft beer bubble? Analysts continue to debate this point. Last year the number of breweries in the U.S. grew 16.6 percent (there were 826 new brewery openings and 97 closings.)  Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, says that there is still opportunity for small and independent brewers, but “it is a much more competitive landscape.”

Still, craft brewers provided nearly 129,000 jobs in 2016; that’s an increase of almost 7,000 jobs from the previous year. But keep in mind that brewing generates a lot of additional jobs and marketing opportunities. The Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesalers Association insist that beer is “an employment intensive industry.” According to their most recent study, for every one job in a brewery or beer importer, another 34 jobs in other industries are supported.

If you ask us, these are plenty of bonus reasons to hit up a craft beer festival, beer trail, or better yet have a beer brunch with your loved ones. Check out what events are happening near you.  #BeerItFoward this week to help local communities, boost economy and jobs, support home-grown agriculture, and celebrate creative entrepreneurs.