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Is the craft beer industry going flat?

Tiny sampler beer glasses sit on a wood platter in front of other wood platters on a table with people in the background.
Jess J
Sampler beer glasses at Oskar Blues in Colorado. CANarchy – a collective of brewers that includes Oskar Blues — ranked 8th among the top 50 producing craft brewing companies in the U.S. based on beer sales by volume.

The Mountain West is known for its production – and love – of craft beer. A new report suggests that as the industry's growth slows and competition increases, however, breweries in the region will have to work even harder to stand out.

The Brewers Association’s annual report, released April 19, found that small and independent brewers produced 24.3 million barrels of beer nationwide in 2022, slightly less than in 2021. The craft beer industry's market share by volume reached 13.2%, up 0.1% over 2021. Overall, the U.S. beer market shrank 3% by volume last year.

“This isn't a bubble bursting, but it is a more competitive market than it was in the past,” said Bart Watson, the chief economist with the Brewers Association. “Breweries are going to have to find new ways to either have incremental strategies that add to what they're doing, or simply outcompete other competitors in the marketplace.”

Watson added that even though production grew for some craft breweries, higher overhead costs are hitting breweries hard.

“These numbers don't necessarily capture the full business picture,” he said. “2022 saw costs rise for breweries just like everywhere else, and so just because your production grew doesn't mean your margin of revenue grew or your bottom line.”

The report also found more craft breweries opened than closed last year. With more than 500 openings and 300 closures in 2022, that put the number of operating craft breweries at an all-time high of 9,552. Still, it's the second year in a row with an overall decrease in craft brewery openings nationwide.

"I think the market turned more competitive and challenging—and quicker than many people, including myself, expected," Watson said.

The association also released a list of the top 50 producing craft brewing companies in the U.S., based on beer sales by volume. CANarchy – a collective of brewers that includes Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado and Wasatch Brewery in Utah – rank 8th, and Odell Brewing in Fort Collins ranks 22nd.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

I'm the General Assignment Reporter and Back-Up Host for KUNC, here to keep you up-to-date on news in Northern Colorado — whether I'm out in the field or sitting in the host chair. From city climate policies, to businesses closing, to the creativity of Indigenous people, I'll research what is happening in your backyard and share those stories with you as you go about your day.
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