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    Craft Beer Growth Continues

    First six months of the year show strong increases despite sluggishness in overall beer market

    America's craft breweries continued their strong growth in the first half of 2005, even as the overall US beer market remained flat, according to statistics compiled by the Brewers Association and other sources.

    First half numbers collected by the Brewers Association pegged the overall craft beer growth rate at more than 7 percent -- the same rate logged during 2004 by the country's 1,400 craft brewers, according to a Business Wire report.

    "Craft beers continue to gain in popularity across the US," Bump Williams, executive vice president, general manager global consulting for beverage alcohol, at Information Resources Inc (IRI) told the Business Wire. "Thirteen of the top 15 craft beers have enjoyed positive dollar and volume trends year-to-date and it appears that there is no end in sight to their success."

    Scan data collected by IRI from grocery and drug stores nationwide showed a 7.8 percent increase in dollar sales for the craft segment for the year to date through August 9, 2005.

    Craft beer holds its own against wine and spirits as well. According to the IRI data, sales of domestic wine grew 9.3 percent through food and drug outlets and spirits grew by 7.0 percent in these channels. Collectively, the IRI data show that craft beer continues to perform well against all other beverage alcohol categories.

    "Many craft brewers reported shipments at an all time high this summer in addition to strong first half results," said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. "Overall the segment continues to thrive."

    "We are seeing steady growth among craft brewers throughout the country with specialty breweries leading the way," said Ray Daniels, director of craft beer marketing for the Brewers Association. "The innovative brands and diverse flavors offered by these brewers continue to find resonance with consumers."

    The craft beer segment includes more than 1,400 breweries who produce primarily all-malt beers. It includes brewpubs (brewery/restaurant), microbreweries (less than 15,000 barrels per year) and specialty brewers. The segment showed its strongest performance in seven years during 2004, growing 7.2 percent over 2003. The 2005 first half results show growth continuing at a similar pace.

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