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CBC Roundup: Craft Sales Up Again

CBC 2015
Photo © Jason E. Kaplan. Courtesy of Brewers Association

The Brewer’s Association released its annual industry figures at the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, confirming another year of growth by the craft segment as defined by the BA – independent brewers producing less than six million barrels annually.

The production of craft beer, said Bart Watson, the BA’s chief economist, was up 18 percent in 2014 to a total of 22.2 million barrels. That was out of 197 million barrels produced over-all. Dollar sales were up 22 percent to $19.6 billion from a U.S. total of $101.5 billion.

There were 615 craft breweries opened and 46 closed, bringing the total to 3,464. Breweries in planning stages were reported to be 2,000. The breakdown in volume produced, said Watson, was 20 percent from brewpubs, 33 percent from microbreweries of 15,000 barrels production or less and the 135 breweries considered to be regional produced the remaining 47 percent.

The overall beer sales in the U.S. are reported to have increased by 0.5 percent in 2014.

Three major awards were presented at this year’s CBC. The Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Brewing was presented to Steve Dresler of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Presented annually since 1997, it is the highest honor bestowed at the CBC. Dresler is the head brewer and has been with Sierra Nevada since 1983.

The Brewers Association Recognition Award went to Dave and Diane Alexander, the husband and wife team that brought a wide array of beers to the Washington, D.C. area at the Brickskeller and later R.F.D.

The F.X. Matt Defense of the Small Brewing Industry Award went to Brook Bristow of the South Carolina Brewers Guild.

On the eve of this year’s CBC, Portland-based Widmer Brothers Brewing announced a $10 million expansion of its brewery on North Russell Street in Portland. The additional fermenters, bright beer tanks and filtration line will increase the brewery’s capacity to 750,000 barrels annually, up by 200,000.

As a member of the Craft Brew Alliance, where Anheuser-Busch owns more than the maximum 25 percent according to guidelines, Widmer Brothers is not considered a craft brewer by the BA. Producing 12 percent of Oregon’s beer volume each year, the brewery founded by brothers Kurt and Rob Widmer is the largest in the state considered one of the epicenters of craft brewing.