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    Retail Sales of Craft Beer Are Hopping

    In 2011, craft brewers represented nearly 6 percent of the volume in the U.S. beer market.

    BOULDER, Colo. -- Anyone responsible for stocking a beer cave these days will not be surprised at the following news: craft beer is growing.

    According to 2011 data just released by the Brewers Association (BA), U.S. craft brewers saw volume rise 13 percent last year, along with a 15-percent increase in retail sales from 2010 to 2011. That figure represents a total barrel increase of 1.3 million.

    In 2011, craft brewers represented 5.68 percent of the volume in the U.S. beer market, up from 4.97 percent, with production reaching 11,468,152 barrels. Additionally, the BA estimated that 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 percent of the $95.5-million U.S. beer market, the association said in a release.

    "While the overall beer market experienced a 1.32-percent volume decrease in 2011, craft brewing saw significant growth, surpassing 5 percent total market volume share for the first time," said Paul Gatza, director of the 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 United States last year, an 11-percent increase over the previous year.

    "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," Gatza added. "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."

    Craft brewers are defined as small, independent brewers with annual production of less than six million barrels.

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