Flannel shirts and beards aren’t the only hipster trends taking hold in mainstream America. While overall sales of beer are down in the United States, sales of craft beers continue to rise.
Last year, retail craft beer sales reached $22.3 billion, accounting for one in five dollars spent on beer, according to a new report from the Colorado-based trade group Brewers Association. By comparison, the overall U.S. beer market shrank 0.2 percent last year.
The number of smaller, independent brewers has grown also, representing 12 percent of the beer industry. Thanks to industry deregulation and growing demand among millennials who are guzzling everything from IPAs to chocolate stouts, craft beer sales have seen double-digit growth for eight of the past 10 years.
There are now a record 4,269 breweries in the United States, with a net 552 new breweries opening last year. The South is seeing particularly strong growth in craft beer, with Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Texas each seeing more than 20 new breweries open for business.
Breweries and brewpubs accounted for nearly 122,000 new jobs last year, an increase of more than 6,000 from 2014. “Small and independent brewers are a beacon for beer and our economy,” Brewers Association Chief Economist Bart Watson said in a statement.
The booming industry has drawn attention from both investors and larger beer manufacturers, leading to a wave of mergers and acquisitions. That trend has caused a backlash among smaller brewers who fear the heavyweights will squeeze them out of distribution. But for consumers the situation looks pretty good, with more interesting, high-quality beer available than ever before.