In a Country Where 1 in 4 Beers Sold Is a Bud Light, Microbrews Are Showing Promising Growth

Written by Stephen Wishnia for Alternet

Independent craft brewers have established a significant niche over the last generation in the beer market, in an industry where six companies make 90 percent of the beer.

In a country where one out of every four beers sold is a Bud Light, and more than 80 percent of all beer sold comes from two giant corporations, indie brewing is showing promising signs of growth and staying power.

A few of the many beers from Stone Brewing

Independent craft brewers have established a significant niche over the last generation. Since 1980, the number of commercial breweries has risen from less than 100 to about 1,600, including brewpubs. Independent craft brewers now account for about 7 percent of U.S. beer sales, and the Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams) is now the leading American-owned brewer.

This situation might inspire the corporate majors to colonize the indies, as they did in the music business of the 1990s and more recently, with the corporate acquisition of several leading health-food brands and body-care products such as Burt’s Bees lip balm and Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. Yet so far, that doesn’t seem to have happened. The majors have created a few brands aimed at the craft-beer market, most notably MillerCoors’ Blue Moon, and Anheuser-Busch owns part of four of the top 20 craft-beer brands, according to store-sales figures for the year ending June 13 from SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market-research firm. Beyond that, however, they have not made many inroads–or tried that hard, say several professional observers.
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