Number of craft breweries reached record high in 2020

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the number of craft breweries reached a record high in 2020.

Pandemic closures of bars and restaurants took their toll on the craft beer industry, but the number of new craft brewers that opened far offset the number that closed in 2020, pushing the total number of craft beer brewers to a record high 8,764 nationwide.

But it hasn’t been all good news for the industry.

The Brewers Association, the trade group representing small and independent American craft brewers, reported that craft brewers collectively produced 23.1 million barrels of beer in 2020 — a 9% decline.

The craft beer share of the overall U.S. beer market also fell to 12.3% in 2020, down from 13.6% in 2019.

And retail dollar value of sales for craft brewers was an estimated $22.2 billion last year, a 22% decline.

The Brewers Association tallied 346 closings — which included microbreweries, brewpubs and taproom breweries — to go with 716 new brewery openings.

More than 700 new brewery openings may sound like a lot, but it was 30% fewer than opened in 2019.

COVID-19 isn’t solely to blame for all of the 346 closings.

While about 30% of those that closed did so because of pandemic-related reasons, the Brewers Association said, other factors for closings included market competitiveness and business maturity.

It said those declines were apparent before the onset of the pandemic.

“While many small breweries will remain under pressure until they can fully reopen and welcome their communities into their breweries, the 2020 closing rate has remained on par with 2019, suggesting that the vast majority of breweries will survive going forward,” said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association.

The Brewers Association defines a small brewer as one that produces 6 million barrels of beer or less per year, and independent brewers as those with less than 25% ownership by an industry company that is not itself a craft brewer.

Below is a graph from the Brewers Association’s annual production report:


A report on how craft brewers fared throughout 2020. (Courtesy Brewers Association)

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up