Industry Fast Facts

Industry Fast Facts

  • In 2021, the U.S. beer industry shipped (sold) 208.6 million barrels of beer (one barrel = 31 gallons, one traditional keg in a bar = half a barrel). In other words, in 2021 the U.S. beer industry shipped the equivalent of more than 2.9 billion cases (24 12-ounce containers) of beer. (Source: U.S. TTB and U.S. Commerce Department, 2022)
  • In addition, the industry shipped approximately 3.5 million barrels of hard cider, perry (an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of pears) and other fermented products, equivalent to more than 49 million cases (24-12 ounce containers). (Source: U.S. TTB and U.S. Commerce Department, 2022)
  • In 2021, 81% of all beer was domestically produced in the U.S., and 19% was imported from more than 100 countries worldwide. (Source: U.S. TTB and U.S. Commerce Department, 2022)
  • In 2020, U.S. consumers aged 21 and older consumed 26 gallons of beer and hard cider per person, according to beer shipment data and U.S. Census population statistics. In 2020, about 246 million people, 74% of the population, are over the age of 21 and are considered legal drinking age. The share of the U.S. population over 21 years old has steadily increased. By comparison, in 2000 the share was 70%. (Source: U.S. Census and NBWA Industry Affairs, 2022)
  • In 2019, the U.S. beer industry sold about $120 billion in beer and malt-based beverages to U.S. consumers through retail beer establishments. However, in 2020 retail sales fell to $100 billion due to widespread closures of restaurants, bars, stadiums and other on-premise accounts. (Source: Beer Institute and NBWA Industry Affairs, 2021)
  • Draft Beer and the on-premise: The widespread closures of on-premise retail establishments such as bars, restaurants, hotels, stadiums and event venues in 2020 and 2021 resulted in a significant decline in draft (keg) beer sales. Draft beer’s share of total volume fell from 10% in 2019 to about 6% in 2020. In 2021, the share of draft (keg beer) rebounded to 8% of total volume. (Source: U.S. Census, US TTB and NBWA Industry Affairs, 2022)
  • The alcohol beverage marketplace and the three-tier system have evolved rapidly over the years. Since 2012, over 2,800 alcohol beverage laws have been passed around the country. In response to the pandemic, many states and local governments have adopted and changed laws and regulations that govern the sale of alcohol sales. (Source: NBWA Industry Affairs, 2022)

Top Beer Holidays in America

(Off-premise, Ranked)

  1. Independence Day (4th of July)
  2. Memorial Day
  3. Labor Day
  4. Christmas
  5. Thanksgiving
  6. The Super Bowl
  7. Cinco de Mayo
  8. Halloween
  9. St. Patrick’s Day
  10. NCAA Basketball

Number of U.S Breweries – 2021

The industry structure has changed significantly over the past 30 years. In 1983, there were 49 breweries. At the end of 2021, the TTB reported 13,380 breweries in the U.S. – an all-time high. Note that not all breweries are open and/or operational. The TTB reported that 848 new brewers notices were submitted in CY 2021. Some states now have more breweries than the entire country had in 1990.


Number of Operating/Reporting Breweries – 2021

  • Less than half of brewers file a report of operation. In 2021, there were 6,631 reporting brewery facilities/locations in the U.S. (Brewers must report operating with TTB)
  • There were 225 new reporting brewers in 2021 compared to 2020, despite an additional 848 new brewery notices filed with the TTB in 2021.
  • Almost a quarter of these breweries were classified as brewpubs that mostly brew beer for direct-to-consumer sale at brewery-restaurant premises.
  • Brewpubs typically brew less than 1,000 barrels (31,000 gallons) of beer per year, though larger chains have emerged around the country.
  • In 2021, more than 90% of all U.S. breweries made fewer than 15,000 barrels (465,000 gallons) and accounted for about 3% of total volume.
  • The 240 breweries that reported zero production and “taxable removals” typically produced beer under contract with another brewer.


Market Share of Brewers – 2021

The share of the market among brewers and importers has changed significantly over the past ten years. Since 2011, the top two brewers have lost a 17% share of the market. The next group of brewers gained 12% of the market, and the remaining “All Other” group gained 5%. The continued growth in small breweries and new innovations in styles and brands makes the U.S. beer market a dynamic and competitive industry.

Source: Beer Marketer’s Insights, 2022

Structural Change in the Industry

The dramatic change in the basic structure of the industry can be observed in the average annual wages paid by brewers and distributors. The chart below shows the annual average wages reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Wages (QCEW). The shift in market share to smaller start-up brewers from larger established brewers shows a consistent pattern of lower annual wages for brewing industry employees. Over the same period, wages paid by beer distributors have kept up with general wage increases.

Beer Distribution

Beer distribution has seen significant changes as well. Over the years, the number of traditional beer distributors has fallen from 4,595 in 1980 to around 3,000 in 2020. However, similar to brewing, the number of new entrants into the alcohol beverage wholesaling sector has increased significantly. According to data from the TTB, there are more than 20,000 licensed alcohol beverage wholesalers. More details about the number of distributors can be found in the NBWA Membership Directory (the directory is only accessible to NBWA Membership). Additional details on jobs, wages, taxes and the economic impacts of beer distributors can be found in the NBWA Distributor Economic Impact Report.

Alcohol Beverage Retail

The three-tier system of alcohol beverage regulation requires that beer distributors sell to beer retailers. The number of retail outlets that sell alcohol has grown significantly since the end of the 2008-2009 recession. Total alcohol outlets increased from 531,705 in 2008 to 608,387 in 2020. 2019 saw the first year of decline in total beer retail accounts since 2008, and the impacts of COVID-19 in 2020-2021 have accelerated that decline.

Packaging and SKUs

A stock keeping unit (SKU) is the primary way retailers, distributors and brewers keep track of their inventory while it passes through the supply chain. Tremendous variety in packaging tracked by SKUs in the marketplace also has grown significantly over time. Across the economy, and over time, consumers have changed the when, where and how of shopping. In response, new retail stores — from discount to big box to convenience — all demand more specialized and specific packaging to fit their customers needs. In 1996, the typical distributor managed 190 unique SKUs in their warehouses. As of 2018, the average stands at 1,174 SKUs. More details can be found in the NBWA Distributor Productivity Report.

Source: NBWA Distributor Productivity Report, 2019

Beer is the Preferred Beverage of Choice

According to the Gallup Poll, 67% of people (two out of every three people) consume alcohol. Although there have been articles about widespread shifts of legal drinkers from beer to spirits or wine, the annual Gallup survey has shown remarkable stability in consumer preferences for alcoohol consumption over the past decade. In 2022, beer remains the preffered beverage of most 21 and older consumers.


Source: Gallup Poll, July 2022