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Craft Beer Moves Into the Mainstream

BOULDER, Colo. — Craft beer entered the mainstream in 2014 as the segment continued to change and expand, according to the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers.

The Boulder-based group, which represents more than 70 percent of the brewing industry, released a 2014 Craft Beer in Review report this week.

"It's remarkable to see how beer has evolved in the past century. Year over year, we're seeing tremendous growth in the craft beer sector and 2014 proved that craft beer is moving into the mainstream," said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association. "Consumers are making a conscious choice to buy and try the plethora of options produced by small and independent craft brewers."

The U.S. brewery count returned to historic levels this year, passing the 3,200 mark in November. Additionally, the number of brewery licenses reached its highest-ever point of more than 4,500 in the first six months of the year.

Thirteen states — California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio — now have more than 100 breweries each. Breweries are opening at a rate of 1.5 per day, with more than 2,000 in the planning stage.

Craft brewers have been the growth point in the overall beer industry, according to the Brewers Association. They saw 18-percent growth by volume through June, and multiple data channels show continuing double-digit growth for craft beer during the second half of the year.

When it comes to consumer preferences, India Pale Ales (IPAs) remain the favored craft beer style, with retail scan data showing IPAs up 47 percent by volume and 49 percent by dollar sales, accounting for 21-percent volume share of craft beer and 23-percent dollar share of off-premise-beer sales. The IPA style was the most-entered category at the Great American Beer Festival. 

Variety packs have also proven popular this year, increasing 21 percent by volume and 24 percent by dollar sales, equating to 9-percent volume share of craft beer and 7-percent dollar share of off-premise-beer sales, the report noted.

Interestingly, craft beer fans are becoming as diverse as craft beer itself, the Brewers Association said. Data shows that 38 percent of households bought a craft beer in the last year, compared to 29 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, women consume nearly 32 percent of craft beer volume, almost half of which comes from women aged 21 to 34. Hispanic populations are also demonstrating increased engagement with craft.

"More and more breweries will spur innovation, meaning there will be even more offerings on hand for beer geeks and beginners to enjoy," Watson said. "Not to mention, more opportunities to explore and support local breweries, which has a profound impact on the economy at the regional, state and national level."

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