Dogfish Heads founder, Sam Calagione

Dogfish Head's founder, Sam Calagione

The head of Dogfish Head Brewery has admitted that the closure rate among US craft breweries is likely to increase, but criticised big brewers for marketing their brands as craft.  

In an interview with just-drinks today, Dogfish's president & founder Sam Calagione said he still believes that craft beer could achieve a 20% market share in the US by 2020. Calagione was reiterating the view of the Brewers Association, where he sits on the board as a director.

However, he acknowledged that the recent surge in US brewery openings may not be sustainable. “I'm so proud to be among the 3,000-or-so craft breweries in the US," Calagione said. "I also understand that, with 1.5 new commercial breweries opening in our country every day and a finite amount of tap space, distributor truck space and shelf space in the supermarket, it's improbable that the opening and closing ratio can stay where it is.

“The closing ratio of commercial breweries is likely to accelerate in two or three years.”

The US has around breweries 3,040 breweries – the highest number since the 1870s. In 2013, the countrysaw 413 new breweries open and 44 close, according to the Brewers Association. 

Calagione also pointed to the issue of big brewers selling their craft beer offerings far cheaper at wholesale  than he claims craft brewers are able to, which could eventually affect the diversity of beer. “True indie brewers need to sell their beer at a different price," he said. "To me, that's why the definition of craft (beer) matters.

"If Anheuser-Busch InBev can convince the world with a US$75 keg of Goose Island, made at one of the world's biggest, most efficient breweries, but is marketed as though it's made at this little artisanal brewery, then it's game over for the diversity of our industry.”

He added: "I have great respect for the world's biggest breweries for making quality, consistent beer, but I have a real problem with them marketing it as if it came from a little craft brewery."

Calagione was speaking to just-drinks at an event to promote Dogfish's collaboration beer with UK brewer Charles Wells. DNA, which was launched in the UK last year, has undergone a “slight” reformulation. “We’ve bumped up new harvest hops in the maturation stage and added a bit more crystal malt to bring body and complexity to the middle,” a Charles Wells spokesperson told just-drinks.

The full interview with Sam Calagione can be read here.