Looking back on 2014, it was another stellar year for craft beer.
To prove it, here are some compelling headlines and statistics from the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association of small and independent American brewers:
U.S. brewery count returns to historic levels. In November, the United States passed the mark of 3,200 brewers in the country and the number of brewery licenses reached the highest ever, topping 4,500 in the first sixth months of the year. Thirteen states (California, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio) now have more than 100 breweries each. Breweries are opening at a rate of 1.5 per day. And there are more than 2,000 breweries in planning.
Craft brewers were the growth point in the overall beer industry. Through June 2014, craft brewers enjoyed 18 percent growth by volume. Numerous data channels are showing continuing double-digit growth for craft in the second half of the year.
Craft beer appreciators are becoming as diverse as craft beer itself. Data indicates that 38 percent of households bought a craft beer in the last year versus 29 percent in 2010. Additionally, women consume almost 32 percent of craft beer volume, almost half of which comes from women ages 21-34.
Here in Georgia, several new breweries opened in 2014, including Creature Comforts in Athens, Eventide, Orpheus, and Second Self in Atlanta, and Service in Savannah.
Longtime contract brewery, Wild Heaven, opened a brick-and-mortar brewery in Avondale, while Burnt Hickory in Kennesaw expanded from nano to micro with a new 20-barrel brewhouse. And at year’s end, Gate City in Roswell was brewing its first batches in a new partnership model with Reformation in Woodstock.
Duly noted by a group of Georgia beer lovers polled at year’s end, new breweries like Creature Comforts and Orpheus are dedicated to producing the year’s most celebrated styles, such as Berliner Weisse, Gose, and other sour and funky beers. And the popularity of collaboration, barrel-aged, session and canned beers grew again in 2014.
Of course, all of those bright lights shone in the shadows of a state that lags far behind in craft breweries per capita — especially when Georgia is compared to its Southern neighbors, North Carolina and Florida.
But the fight to change the laws that brewers here believe hinder their business and ability to compete has gained new momentum through the efforts of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild.
“The best story of the year is that the Brewers Guild got our act together enough to effectively organize, actually hire a lobbyist and make a realistic attempt to modernize some of our crazy backward laws,” said Crawford Moran of Five Seasons Brewing Co.
“We’ll know how the story ends in 2015, and it is definitely not a done deal, but we’ve taken tremendous steps forward. It’s a great reflection of the efforts and concern of the growing Georgia beer community.”