Sales of microbrewery beer in the US jumped by 7% in 2004 compared to the previous year, making so-called 'craft' beer the fastest growing segment of the US beverage alcohol industry according to the Colorado-based Brewers Association.


Americans' continued preference for more varied flavours in beers and the increase in the number of microbreweries has fuelled growth in the sector, it said.


"Craft beer volume growth outpaced that of imports, large brewers, wine and spirits in 2004," said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. He said micro-brewed beer sales increased faster than imports for the second year in a row reversing the trend seen between 1996 and 2002.