March 26/Boulder, Colo./Business Wire -- The Brewers Association (BA) released 2011 data on U.S. craft brewing. Craft brewers saw volume rise 13%, with a 15% increase in retail sales from 2010 to 2011, representing a total barrel increase of 1.3 million.

In 2011, craft brewers represented 5.68% of volume of the U.S. beer market, up from 4.97% in 2010, with production reaching 11,468,152 barrels. Additionally, the BA estimates the actual dollar sales figure from craft brewers in 2011 was $8.7 billion, up from $7.6 billion in 2010. Increased retails sales represented 9.1% of the $95.5 billion dollar U.S. beer market.

“While the overall beer market experienced a 1.32% volume decrease in 2011, craft brewing saw significant growth, surpassing five percent total market volume share for the first time,” said Paul Gatza, director, Brewers Association. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that with the variety of styles and flavors to choose from, Americans are developing a strong taste for high-quality, small-batch beer from independent brewers.”

With 250 brewery openings and only 37 closings, the BA also reported that 1,989 breweries were operating in the U.S. in 2011 -- an 11% increase from the previous year. Small brewers employed approximately 103,585 workers in the U.S. in 2011.

“We saw rapid growth in brewery openings last year, particularly with microbrewery start-ups, and these numbers are poised to rise even more in 2012,” added Gatza. “In February 2012, we already topped 2,000 operating breweries--a truly remarkable milestone. We look forward to even more success and the continued expansion of the craft beer market.”

 From the March 28, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily Update