The U.S. Beer Industry

In 2015, the U.S. beer industry shipped (sold) 206.7 million barrels of beer – equivalent to more than 2.8 billion cases of 24-12 ounce servings. In addition, the industry shipped approximately 2 million barrels of cider, equivalent to more than 28.3 million cases.

Source: U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and U.S. Commerce Department, 2015.

In 2015, 85 percent of all beer was domestically produced, and 14 percent was imported from more than 100 different countries around the world.

Source: TTB and U.S. Commerce, 2015

Based on beer shipment data and U.S. Census population statistics, U.S. consumers 21 years and older consumed 27.5 gallons of beer and cider per person during 2015.

Source: NBWA Industry Affairs, 2015

About 235 million people, 73 percent of the population, are over the age of 21 and considered legal drinking age. The share of the U.S. population over 21 has increased steadily over the past 10 years. In 2006, the share was 71 percent.

Source: U.S. Census and NBWA Industry Affairs, 2015

The U.S. beer industry sells more than $100 billion in beer and malt-based beverages to U.S. consumers each year.

Source: Beer Institute Annual Report, 2014

Number of Breweries – 2015

There were 4,824 reporting brewery facilities/locations in the United States in 2015. This is an increase of about 700 from 2014 reports.

Almost a quarter of these breweries were classified as brewpubs that only brew beer for direct to consumer sale on brewery-restaurant premises.

Brewpubs typically brew less than 1,000 barrels (31,000 gallons) of beer per year, though larger chains have emerged around the country.

Number of Permitted Breweries – 2016

The industry structure has changed significantly over the past 30 years. In 1983, there were 49 breweries. In 2016, there were 7,190 permitted breweries in the U.S. as of December 31, 2016 – an all-time high.

The TTB issued 1,110 new permits in 2016. While this count is slightly below the 1,142 new permits issued in 2015, it is still strong and is the third straight year the country added more than 1,000 newly permitted breweries. Many of these permitted breweries are in planning and may not be brewing beer.

The brewery expansions parallel the business cycle expansion from 2010 to 2016 and stand out in an economy that has been sluggish and subpar relative to past business cycles. New breweries have continued to find growth opportunities in the beer market.

TTB Permitted Breweries 2016 Listed by State

Market Share of Brewers

The share of market for the top five brewers and importers has changed significantly over the past five years. Since 2009, more than 7 percent of the market has shifted from large brewers and importers to smaller brewers and importers. The continued growth in small upstart breweries makes the U.S. beer market a dynamic and competitive industry.

Source: Beer Marketer’s Insights, 2016

Beer Distribution

Beer distribution has seen significant changes as well. Over the years, the number of traditional beer distributors has fallen from 4,595 in 1980 to around 3,000 in 2015. However, similar to brewing, the number of new entrants into the alcohol beverage wholesaling sector has increased significantly. According to data from the TTB, there are more than 20,000 licensed alcohol beverage wholesalers.

Packaging and SKUs

SKU and package variety in the marketplace also has grown significantly over time.

A “stock keeping unit” is the primary way retailers, distributors and brewers keep track of their beer inventory in the marketplace.

Across the economy and over time consumers have changed the way they shop. In response, new retail stores - from discounters, to big box, to category killers and convenience - now all demand more specialized and specific packaging to fit their customer needs.

In 1996, the typical distributor delivered 190 unique SKUs. In 2015, the average was 981 SKUs.

Source: NBWA Distributor Productivity Report

Beer is the Preferred Beverage of Choice

According to the Gallup Poll, 36 percent of people do not consume alcohol. Although there have been articles about widespread shifts of legal drinkers from beer to spirits or wine, the annual Gallup survey has shown remarkable stability in consumer preferences over the past decade.

Consumer Preferences in Beer, Wine and Spirits
Year Beer Wine Spirits
2001 46% 31% 18%
2002 44% 30% 22%
2003 42% 33% 22%
2004 39% 33% 24%
2005 39% 36% 21%
2006 41% 33% 23%
2007 40% 34% 22%
2008 42% 31% 23%
2009 40% 34% 21%
2010 41% 32% 21%
2011 36% 35% 23%
2012 39% 35% 22%
2013 36% 35% 23%
2014 41% 31% 23%
2015 42% 34% 21%
2016 43% 32% 20%


Source: Gallup Poll