Has craft beer peaked? Recent data indicates turbulent times ahead

(Jack Andersen/Getty Images)

Numbers don’t lie…

… but sometimes they mumble. Recently released data show that overall beer sales in the U.S. fell 1%, yet craft beer sales rose 5%. Craft beer is more popular than ever, accounting for almost 13 out of every 100 beers sold.

However, some of craft beer’s leading brands are stumbling. Of the nation’s five largest craft breweries, four saw sales drop between 2016 and 2017, while one merely matched that previous year’s figure.

D.G Yuengling & Sons dropped 2%; Boston Beer, 14%; Sierra Nevada, 8%; New Belgium held steady; and Spoetzel fell 3%.

Some prominent breweries prospered — for instance, Escondido’s Stone, the country’s eighth largest craft brewery, rose 15%.

Still, craft is navigating turbulent waters. With the number of American breweries doubling in the past five years, there’s too much competition to support the notion that a rising tide lifts all boats.

Instead, this flood tide lifts some and swamps others.

To read more of Peter Rowe’s weekly column, go here.