Small-scale, independent craft brewers in the US are gaining alcohol market share, according to date released today by an industry association, on the back of increased support for local breweries and changing consumer tastes.

The US Brewers Association has said, from 2007 to 2008, estimated sales by craft brewers were up 5.8% by volume and 10.5% in value.

Overall share of the beer category from craft brewers was 4% of production and 6.3% of retail sales. More than 1m new barrels of beer were sold in 2008, and close to half were beer from craft brewers.

The Association said the rise was due to a shift toward full flavour beer and increased support for local breweries.

"2008 was a historic year for beer with the large brewers consolidating and imports losing share, while the top ten selling beer brands dropped in sales. At the same time, small independent craft brewers continued to gain share and attention," said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association.

With the total US beer industry being worth more than a US$100bn, the Brewers Association estimates the actual dollar sales from craft brewers in 2008 as $6.34bn, up from $5.74bn in 2007.

Taxable barrels of the total beer alcohol category was 1.2m more in 2008 with craft brewers producing 473,364 of those barrels. Total craft brewer barrels for 2008 was 8,596,971, up from 8,123,607 barrels in 2007.