One third of US brewers grew their businesses by more than 10% last year, according to recent figures. The Brewers Association said yesterday (18 May) that regional brewers had led the growth. These 450 fast-growing brewers underpinned growth in the craft segment of 7.2% in 2004.

"Craft beer is hot," said Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association. "Today, Americans increasingly turn to the flavour and diversity of locally made brews when they drink beer."

In spite of tough conditions in the mass market and a sharp drop in import sales, craft beers - defined by the association as those made with all-malt formulations by nearly 1,400 US brewers - have enjoyed a strong performance over the past 18 months, with some recording sustained double-digit growth over several years.

"While the overall craft segment grew just 1% to 3% each year from 2000 to 2003, a number of individual players thrived during this time," said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. "Many have had three and four consecutive years of double-digit growth."