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From 2009 through 2011, total U.S. beer shipments fell an average of 1.3 percent annually, hurt by sluggish sales of mainstream brew, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights, a trade publication. Last year, the industry turned around with a 1.5 percent increase in shipments, but that was largely due to the craft segment’s strong performance.
Craft beer makes up less than 10 percent of the overall beer market by volume. But last year, production rose 15 percent while dollar sales jumped 17 percent, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group for craft brewers. The segment has had double-digit volume growth every year since 2006, except in 2008 and 2009 when the economy tanked.
As a bonus for maltsters, craft beers require proportionately more malt than mainstream U.S. beers.
That’s because craft brewers generally use only four foundation ingredients: water, yeast, hops and malted barley or sometimes malted wheat. Conventional brewers often supplement barley malt with rice and corn, which cuts costs and imparts a lighter body that many beer drinkers prefer.
But rice and corn are forbidden in the craft world: The base of beer is not to be messed with. “Malt is the soul of beer,” Stutrud said. “And the fact that malt is considered the soul of beer is a pretty big statement.”
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003