The Brewers Association has just released this year's numbers on U.S. beer sales. If you prefer Manifesto Eagle Rock Wit to Blue Moon (which is owned by MillerCoors), the news is good. Beer sales slowed overall, slipping 1.3% by volume. Within the craft beer industry, however, numbers continued to rise, with a 13% increase by volume (almost 11.5 million barrels) and 15% increase in dollars (compared with 12% and 15%, respectively, in 2010). Thanks to 1,940 breweries in operation last year, including brewpubs, microbreweries and regional craft breweries, the number of small beer producers is the highest it's been since 1880.
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Why is this small but steady increase important? In the last few years, big beer advertising has shifted (slightly) less toward bikinis and beaches, and more in the direction of "top-shelf taste," "triple-filtered" and "triple-hopped." This is an industry acknowledgment that the average beer consumer now is looking for a brew offering quality in flavor and not just a fermented corn juice buzz or barbecue accessory. A continuously growing craft beer market means more stability for your favorite local brewer, and additional brewery openings.More »