U.S. craft beer production jumps 18 percent in 2014

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Craft beer now represents 11 percent of the U.S. beer marketplace, according to a new report, the latest sign that consumers are turning away from the domestic stalwarts Budweiser, Miller and Coors.

Figures released Monday by the Brewers Association, a trade group representing the industry, showed the craft brewing sector is keeping up its rapid growth based on its artisan appeal, vast variety of offerings and cult-like following among fans, especially millennials.

In 2014, craft brewers produced 22.2 million barrels, an increase of 18 percent from the previous year. Production has more than doubled since 2010, when craft beer represented 5 percent of the market.

Overall, retail sales of craft beer rose 22 percent last year to $19.6 billion, accounting for almost a fifth of retail beer sales as craft six-packs and pours are more expensive than the domestics.

The national growth mirrors what is occurring in Sonoma County, which is one of the nation’s top spots for craft beer. The overall economic impact in Sonoma County reached $170 million in 2013, a 25 percent increase from the previous year, according to a survey by the county’s Economic Development Board.

That’s evident over at St. Florian’s Brewery in Windsor, which is expected to increase production by two-thirds this year with a new bottling line and two new 60-barrel tanks and two 60-barrel fermenters, said Amy Levin, chief executive officer and owner.

“It’s nice and rosy,” Levin said of her business outlook. “We have been running at capacity. I don’t think we can run anymore.”

St. Florian sells almost all of its product in retail stores and on-site accounts such as restaurants and brewpubs, Levin said, and recently struck a deal with Morris Distributing in Petaluma to help its North Coast accounts. It is exploring other distributors to service the Central Valley.

Although Sonoma County already has approximately 20 breweries, Levin said she believes there is more capacity to grow locally by focusing on styles outside hoppy India Pale Ales, which are a mainstay of the North Coast brewing scene. For example, she said St. Florian’s California Common lager may actually surpass its top-selling IPA in future years.

The number of American breweries jumped 19 percent last year to total 3,464, with 3,418 of those craft brewers, according to the survey. The industry provided 115,469 jobs last year, which was an increase of almost 5,000.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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