A Green Flash employee pours beer at Cellar 3
The national craft-beer trade group known as the Brewers Association has issued an economic report detailing the growth of the craft-beer segment in 2015. At the end of 2015, there were 4269 breweries operating within the U.S. — according to the report, "the most at any time in American history."
With regard to the macro-versus–craft beer competition that's been a trending topic in the wake of highly publicized acquisitions including San Diego's Saint Archer and Ballast Point, the report noted "small and independent breweries" account for 99 percent of all breweries operating nationwide.
The retail sales of craft breweries is up 16 percent to $22.3 billion, which means craft beer comprised roughly 1.6% of all 2015 food and beverage retail sales. Despite this increase, craft breweries still account for only 21 percent of all retail dollars spent on beer in the U.S.
However, craft's rising share of the market includes volume. While overall volume of beer made in the U.S. declined by .2 percent, the amount produced by craft brewers went up 13 percent to 24.5 million barrels.
The 4269 operating breweries in the U.S. is up 15 percent from 2014, with 620 new breweries opening, and 68 closing. In San Diego, that rate was higher: 19 new breweries began releasing beer for the first time in 2015, representing a 20 percent increase. Two San Diego breweries — Indian Joe Brewing and Prodigy Brewing — closed in 2015, though only temporarily, as both plan to reopen at new locations within the next year.
San Diego's 19 new breweries compares to the growth seen in several states. The report highlights Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas as the fastest-growing beer regions in the country, with each state adding more than 20 breweries in 2015. This growth rate is on pace to continue in 2016. Though two San Diego breweries — URBN St. and Twisted Manzanita — have permanently closed since the beginning of the year, eight new ones have opened in the past three months.
Employment numbers were also up, as the industry added 6000 jobs in 2015, bringing the national total to 122,000. While San Diego's 2015 numbers have yet to be released, SD Beer employed 6203 in 2014, and mayor Kevin Faulconer recently cited job creation as key importance of craft beer's impact on the local economy. "It's about jobs," he said while speaking at a Hillcrest Farmers Market beer-tasting event. "Craft beer and the growth that we're having with breweries, it's about putting San Diegans back to work."
The San Diego Brewers Guild reported approximately 500 job seekers attended its inaugural Craft Beer Job Fair last August, pursuing jobs from 21 breweries and related companies. A second job fair has been scheduled for April 19.