Brewers Association reflects on 2016

JJ’s Beer Garden & Brewing Co., 3615 N. Steele Blvd. in Fayetteville
Photo: Brian Sorensen

According to the brewing industry’s trade association, 2016 has been very kind to small and independent brewers across the United States. The number of American breweries has eclipsed the 5,000 mark – a significant feat given the fact large industrial brewers like Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors once had a complete stranglehold on the industry.

Things are going pretty well in Arkansas, too. There are nearly thirty breweries currently in operation or planning to open in the next few months. Coming soon to the state are Fort Smith Brewing Co., JJ’s Beer Garden & Brewing Co. in Fayetteville, and Little Rock’s 501 Brewing Co.

Outsiders are starting to take notice of the state’s brewing prowess. Northwest Arkansas was recently recognized by online travel agency Travelocity as the 20th best beer destination in the “large metro” category. The agency’s so-called beer tourism index took into account breweries per capita, rideshare availability, nonstop air destinations, and lodging affordability. Not surprisingly, Portland, Oregon was #1 in the category. Being on the same list as PDX – which has over 80 breweries in its metro area and an eclectic beer culture – is certainly heady praise for Northwest Arkansas.

There were other interesting facts revealed by the Brewers Association in its recent press release:

  • 99% of American breweries are classified as small and independent
  • Growth of small and independent breweries reached 8% by mid-year
  • IPAs account for nearly a quarter of the craft beer market
  • Low-alcohol styles such as golden ales, pilsners, and pale lagers grew by 33%
  • 65% of craft beer drinkers select small and independent breweries due to their preference for variety

“In the face of numerous opportunities and challenges in 2016, small and independent craft brewers continue to thrive,” wrote Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association. “This community should be very proud of what it has accomplished and how far it has come.”

Though he was referring to the nation as a whole, Watson’s words ring especially true for the Arkansas brewing industry.

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