Year in Beer

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Year in Beer 2023

Year in Beer


A maturing market and increased competition call for new strategies and redoubled commitment to innovation.

Mature and Competitive

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Slowing growth and heightened competition dealt craft brewers a blow in 2023. But opportunities for innovation give cause for hope.

Brewery Count

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Business as Unusual

2023 proved challenging for many small and independent brewers. All signs point to production being down in 2023 — a first (excluding a unique 2020) for independent brewers.

The primary culprits are slowing demand growth, competition from across beverage alcohol, and a retail environment marked by declining draught sales and reduced shelf space for craft. 

Many of craft’s challenges call for new strategies to reach new and existing customers in new occasions with new flavors and innovations.  

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Reality Check

Amid headwinds, there is good news: the continued overall popularity of the category. Independent brewers still sell more than one out of eight beers in the United States, and consumers spend roughly a quarter of their beer dollars on a beer from a small and independent brewer. 

Ups and Downs in D.C.

The Brewers Association continued its work to ensure small brewers have equitable access to markets, fair tax rates, and sensible regulations.  

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The first session of the 118th Congress will be remembered for its rocky start and middle. Despite not having a Speaker of the House for several weeks, following the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the government was able to work together to avoid a debt-ceiling crisis and a government shutdown.  

Brewers Association staff worked to maintain relationships with our legislative champions and build relationships with the 84 newly elected members of Congress, educating them about small and independent breweries and the legislative issues that impact our industry, including the reintroduced United States Postal Service Shipping Equity Act, supply chain issues focusing on Co2 capture, and ensuring that the federal excise tax structure put in place by the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act is protected. The association also hosted a successful hill climb attended by brewery owners, guild executive directors and supplier members working together to advocate on behalf of the industry. 

In the States

The Brewers Association prioritized working closely with state guilds across the country to update outdated laws and regulations, with efforts supporting shipping craft beer directly to consumers, beer franchise law reform, and self-distribution authorization for small and independent craft brewers.

Additionally, the BA brought significant resources to bear to support state-specific beer law modernizations like license stacking, ending draconian regulations, and the expansion of retail rights for breweries across multiple states.

Shipping Equity

The United States Postal Service (USPS) Shipping Equity Act (H.R.3287/S.1663) is bipartisan legislation that would give USPS the same ability as private carriers to ship alcohol in states where it is legal to do so. This legislation is beneficial to breweries, consumers and the postal service.).

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Climate Stresses

Supply chain issues moderated somewhat in 2023, but climate change and persisting disruptions continued to challenge brewers throughout the year. 

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Climatic stresses affected the two major agricultural inputs in brewing, barley, and hops.  The 2023 North American barley harvest was larger than 2022 but still below the five-year average. Quality issues persisted, particularly in the Canadian prairie provinces and parts of Montana where precipitation remained below normal, and temperatures stayed above normal.  

In the U.S., hop acreage strung for harvest decreased due to the large volume of hops in inventory, but growing conditions produced above-average yields in most varieties. Climatic conditions remained challenging in Europe. The quantity of hops harvested in Europe remained well below average. 

The supply of CO2 stabilized somewhat, but spot shortages continued to affect some regions. 

Brewing for Tomorrow

The Brewers Association invests in the future of craft beer through opportunity-making, member and community engagement, and high-impact philanthropy. With its sixth mentorship program cohort, the Brewers Association has connected more than 200 mentors with 190 professionals looking to pursue a career in the industry or develop their knowledge and skills. 

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Storied Past, Bright Future

The ageless Great American Beer Festival, now in its fourth decade, continues to defy the actuarial tables for events of its size. In 2023, the event felt fresh as ever, adding new attractions and broadening the available flavors to include cider, mead, and seltzer, as well as a non-alcohol pavilion that highlighted the vibrant NA space. Hundreds of breweries vied for hardware in the competition, proving that brewers are as dynamic as ever—and steadfast in their commitment to excellence.

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Cheers to success in the coming year!