The number of operating craft breweries continued to climb in 2021, reaching an all-time high of 9,118, including 1,886 microbreweries, 3,307 brewpubs, 3,702 taproom breweries, and 223 regional craft breweries, according to figures released by The Brewers Association. The total operating brewery count was 9,247, up from 9,025 in 2020.
Throughout the year, there were 646 new brewery openings and 178 closings. Openings decreased for a second consecutive year, with the continued decline reflecting a more mature market. Ongoing pandemic challenges and rising interest rates were additional factors. The closing rate also declined in 2021, likely helped by a combination of better sales numbers and additional government relief through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which was available to some brewpub and taproom brewers.
“While the boom in breweries of a few years before has certainly slowed, the continued growth in small breweries shows the solid foundation of demand for their businesses and beers,” said Bart Watson, Chief Economist, Brewers Association.
In 2021, small and independent brewers collectively produced 24.8 million barrels of beer. This represents a growth of 8%, increasing craft’s overall beer market share by volume to 13.1%, up from 12.2% the previous year.
The overall beer market grew 1% by volume in 2021. Retail dollar value was estimated at USD 26.9 billion, representing 26.8% market share and 21% growth over 2020. This growth is stronger than volume primarily due to the channel shift back to on-premise, which has a higher average retail value. Craft brewers provided more than 172,643 direct jobs, a 25% increase from 2020.
“Craft brewer sales rebounded in 2021, lifted by the return of draught and at-the-brewery traffic,” added Watson. “However, the mixed performance across business models and geographies as well as production levels that still lag 2019 suggest that many breweries remain in recovery mode. Add in continuing supply chain and pricing challenges, and 2022 will be a critical year for many brewers.”
In addition, the Brewers Association also released its annual list of the top 50 producing craft brewing companies and overall brewing companies in the U.S., based on beer sales volume. Of the top 50 overall brewing companies in 2021, 40 were small and independent craft brewing companies. The whole list can be found here.