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The Chicago Tribune reports that sales growth in the craft beer market, which has been a major growth area in recent years, "is slowing." According to the story, "once-thriving brewers are laying off workers and the proliferation of new brands all competing for attention harkens to the dime-a-dozen startups from the web's early days."

The problem, according to the story, "is partly due to the sheer number of beer-makers competing to entice drinkers. A thirst for more local and flavorsome beers swelled the number of breweries in the U.S. to a record 4,656 in June, yet the volume of beer produced is growing at less than half the 18 percent rate it boasted two years ago, according to the Brewers Association, a trade body for the American craft beer industry. The U.S. now has more breweries than it did at its high-water mark of 1873, according to the group."

There have been recent stories about how Boston Beer Company has been facing issues with its Samuel Adams brand; California-based Stone Brewing has laid off five percent of its workforce, and Redhook Brewery is "halving the number of workers at its Woodinville brewery in Washington state."

The craft beer slowdown also is certain to affect major brewers, since companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev have been highly acquisitive of small breweries as they sought to bolster their larger businesses.
KC's View:
This was inevitable, I suppose. It always seemed to me that a kind of hops bubble was being created that simply could not be sustained. There will be some washout, but I've no reason to think that the really good ones won't survive.

I'm in Minneapolis at the moment, and last night I went to a brewery called Surly for dinner. And I had an amazing black ale called Damien that was complex without being too heavy, and then an extraordinary Russian Imperial Stout called Darkness ... and as long as there are terrific and differentiated beers and ales being produced, there will be plenty of room for the craft beer business. Just not room for everybody.