Craft beer keeps getting bigger

Craft beer now accounts for nearly $20 billion in U.S. sales, up 22% from the 2013 totals, according to a Brewers Assn. report.
Craft beer now accounts for nearly $20 billion in U.S. sales, up 22% from the 2013 totals, according to a Brewers Assn. report.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

For the first time in the history of the industry, craft breweries have captured more than 10% of the total beer market in America, and although Los Angeles is behind the national curve, the Southland’s craft brewing industry is catching up quickly.

As announced in the annual Brewers Assn. “Growth in the Beer Category” report, the “small, independent, and traditional” breweries that count toward the more than 3,000 craft breweries operating in America produced more than 22 million barrels (nearly 700 million gallons) of beer in 2014.

This flood of craft suds now accounts for nearly $20 billion in sales, up 22% from the 2013 totals. Though, as industry news site Brewbound points out, the totals “were bolstered by the inclusion of about 3.5 million ‘new’ craft brewed barrels, added after the organization changed its definition to include some previously non-craft brands.”

Regardless of the tweaks to who gets defined as craft, the increase in market share for the underdog industry continues an impressive trend of growth.


In 2010 — the year the craft revolution really took hold in Los Angeles — craft breweries accounted for just 5% of the beer sold in America. Market share grew steadily over the next five years and in 2014 one of every 10 beers sold in the U.S. was of the craft variety.

Last year also saw more than 600 new breweries open, bringing the total number of operating breweries in the country to 3,464 — with just 46 of those falling outside of the Brewers Assn. definition of craft brewery. (All these numbers are presented visually in this infographic.)

Breaking that down a little: Less that 2% of the breweries in the country account for 89% of the beer brewed. The other 98% of the breweries made 1/10th of the beer sold but accounted for 1/5th of the money spent on beer.

Rob Croxall, president of the L.A. Brewers Guild as well as founder and president of El Segundo Brewing Co., thinks that Los Angeles is below the national average for craft beer market share. “We were late to the game, and while we’ve caught up rapidly, craft beer is still not as mainstream as it is in other regions,” he says.

El Segundo Brewing Co. demonstrates the rapidly growing yet still small scale of L.A.’s craft industry. The brewery began production in 2011 and brewed just 1,200 barrels of beer in its first full year of operation. In 2013 it nearly doubled production to 2,200 barrels and, powered in large part by sales of their bottled IPAs, grew production to 3,400 barrels in 2014. Croxall says the brewery is on pace to add another 40% to its production totals in 2015.

“This steady growth shows that craft brewing is part of a profound shift in American beer culture — a shift that will help craft brewers achieve their ambitious goal of 20 percent market share by 2020,” the Brewers Assn. chief economist Bart Watson said in the statement.

“Small and independent brewers are deepening their connection to local beer lovers while continuing to create excitement and attract even more appreciators.”