Craft beer is a classic example of history repeating itself; what’s old is new once again.
What started for many people as a hobby enjoyed in individual garages and basements surged into the cultural mainstream as more people learned they loved to raise a glass with something other than the typical six-pack of beer.
Strong growth numbers for craft brewing
The craft brewing business boomed even during tough economic times. Over the last decade, the industry experienced unprecedented growth. In 2015, the craft beer sales market increased 15 percent to a total of $22.3 billion, according to the Brewers Association annual report. Total barrel production rose to 24.5 million in 2015 compared to only 10.1 million barrels back in 2010.
As of 2015, the number of United States’ craft breweries stood at 4,225 — compared to 1,754 locations just five years before.
Brewing combines modern taste and history
Craft brewers and industry experts attribute the industry’s nationwide success to an interesting paradox in today’s culture: people’s modern tastes combined with a growing need to connect with our past.
Los Angeles-based marketing research company IBISWorld released a report in August 2015 highlighting craft beer’s diversity as a critical element to its rising popularity.
“The craft beer production industry brews virtually all styles of beer and regularly experiments with different ingredients to create variant styles of beer,” the IBISWorld report states. “As a result, the industry’s range of products is diverse.”
Craft beer brewers work with a variety of flavor profiles, including chocolate, vanilla, citrus (lemon, grapefruit), coffee, chai and much more. Combining these flavors requires a special touch, according to Anthony Canecchia, founder and head brewer at SanTan Brewing Company in Phoenix, Arizona.
“It’s a lot like the food industry,” he explained. “There is no shortage of young ambitious chefs out there who take certain foods and combine them into new creations. That’s what we do as craft brewers. We tinker and look to make things better. Because of this, we have people, globally, looking at American craft beer and seeing the creativity coming out of this work. “
Rather than having eyes on the big prize of national distribution, many craft brewers understand the need to tap into their community’s preferences to continue their business’ growth.
According to a 2015 Nielsen Marketing research study, consumers’ desire for locally sourced beer is on the rise.
“Consumers' desire to search for and buy local is growing,” the report found. “Among all alcoholic beverage categories, local has grown in importance the most among beer drinkers. In fact, 22 percent of beer drinkers said they think the importance of being made locally has grown over the last couple of years, compared with 14 percent of wine drinkers and only 5 percent of spirit drinkers.”
Cannecchia said he’s noticed this market shift and emphasizes its importance to craft brewing.
“The term ‘local’ has become part of our daily lexicon,” he said. “I think people are being pulled toward the question ‘What makes my community special?’ These breweries contribute to that identity.”
The Phoenix brewer also believes the public has connected so much with craft breweries and taprooms because its part of our evolution and history.
“Beer goes back go the beginning of civilization,” Cannecchia said. “Beer is a food, made from grain and is part of our farming culture; it is sort of ingrained in us. Fast-forward to a culture of city dwellers with a lot of free time now because they aren’t farming the fields. There is still a desire to produce spirited liquors, like craft beers. It’s our way of connecting with our past.”