Beer shipments in the United States declined by 2.2 percent last year according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) unofficial estimate of domestic tax paid shipments. This is 3.8 million barrels less than the previous year and “the largest percentage decrease in annual domestic beer shipment volume since 1954,” as Michael Uhrich, chief economist of the Beer Institute (BI) puts it.
It is believed that most losses stem from consumers switching from mass produced domestic lagers to imported beers, which are not shown in the TTB statistics. “This doesn’t explain the overall down year, but does partially explain why domestic shipments are historically poor,” stated Bart Watson, the chief economist for the Brewers Association in an email to Brewbound. “There are a variety of reasons (marketing/branding, demographics, etc.) but I would expect this to continue for the medium term,” he added.
Observers also believe that the craft beer market with lower volumes at higher prices are eating into the volume beer market, which is reflected in the statistics. Although the craft beer market is slowing its volume growth and even experienced its first decline since its beginnings in the late seventies (inside.beer, 8.7.2017) the number of craft beer breweries is still growing in the US and worldwide (inside.beer, 19.3.2017).