Craft Beer Sales ClimbingMarch 4, 2011 - 3:52 PM | by: Rick Leventhal
Craft beer is a booming business and the Brooklyn Brewery is a thriving example.
Based in an old brick warehouse in Williamsburg, just across the East River from Manhattan, Brooklyn Brewery is cooking, fermenting and selling more than 110,000 barrels of lager, ale and other craft beers every year (this includes beer the company brews at another facility upstate in Utica, New York). The specialty suds are sold in kegs of all sizes along with bottles and cans, the equivalent of between 1.5 and 2 million cases poured in 2010 and the company says the production will grow far larger when an expansion project is complete.
“I think a lot of people aren’t guzzling beer the way they used to” says owner Steve Hindy. “They’re looking for something they can savor and think about and talk about and that’s Brooklyn Lager or one of our other great beers.”
The company employs 48 people and expects to double that number in the next three years. They’ve added a new wing to their Brooklyn facility that could quadruple capacity by 2014.
“We think out beers are more interesting” than typical domestics, Steve says, “and give more to the customer, and that’s what competition is all about, right?”
In fact, while beers sales fell as a whole by almost three percent nationally in the first half of 2010, the sales of craft beer (any beer made by breweries producing less than two million barrels a year) went up 9% by volume and 12% in dollars. While craft beers are still a small percentage of total beer sales, the totals are staggering and sobering: nine million barrels, more than seven billion dollars in sales, helping to fuel an estimated 100,000 full and part time jobs coast to coast.
Julia Herz with the Brewers Association says “we’ve got on the books over 500 breweries in planning on top of the 1600 breweries that we have already registered” in the U.S., a national trend with neighborhood flavor.
“The majority of Americans live within ten miles of a brewery” Herz says. “And so you can go tour, meet with, even have a beer with the local brewer from down the street.”
Brooklyn’s Steve Hindy agrees.
“Part of it is people looking for something local, looking for something authentic.”
He says he has nothing against the big brands and respects their quality and consistency and points out his company is only 1/200th the size of Anheuser Busch, the maker of Budweiser and other beers, but also boasts Brooklyn Brewery is the top exporter of craft beer in the nation.
“We don’t look down our nose at anyone who drinks beer” he says. “We think that the big brewers have their place… but we think if we can get a chance at letting people have a taste of our kind of beer and the different styles we produce, then we can convert them eventually.”
Hindy admits Brooklyn Lager and other craft beers typically cost more than mass produced brands but says that’s because his ingredients and processes cost more.
He also proudly says his lager is worth the investment.