The US craft-beer industry saw production rates decline in 2023 despite a record number of operating breweries, according to preliminary figures from the national Brewers Association (BA).

Annual beer production for small and independent brewers dropped 1% on 2022, to 23.4m barrels.

Craft beer’s overall annual market share inched up 0.2% on the previous year to 13.3% in 2023, however.

The growth was driven by craft declines being smaller than overall beer volume losses, the BA said.

Craft’s production slump comes as the country’s “overall beer market” also booked a 5.1% decrease in volumes last year, which is attributed both to pricing and “lightly stronger onsite sales growth versus distribution”.

In addition to production figures, the BA also released its list of the top producing craft brewers in the US, based on beer sales volumes.

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The top-five craft players included, D. G. Yuengling & Son, Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada Company, Duvel Moortgat and Gambrinus, while the leading brewing companies included Anheuser-Busch Inc, Molson Coors, Constellation, Heineken and Pabst Brewing Company.

Despite craft production decline in the US, the number of operating breweries in the craft space hit “an all time high”, up 1.37% on 2022 to 9,683.

These breweries were comprised of 3,900 taproom breweries, 3,467 brewpubs, 2,071 microbreweries, and 245 regional craft breweries.

Craft-brewery closure rates however increased again in 2023 from 3% to “approximately 4%”.

The US saw 495 openings in 2023, a 9.8% dip on 2022, while closures increased 31% with 418 breweries shutting up shop.

Speaking on the findings, Bart Watson, vice president of strategy and chief economist of the Brewers Association said: “2023 was another competitive and challenging year for small and independent brewers.

“Nevertheless, even as growth has downshifted, small brewers have proved quite resilient, as seen in the increase in number of breweries, relatively low closing rates, and gains in onsite sales and jobs.”

He added: “As always, the beverage alcohol market and consumer demand continue to evolve.

“Many brewers are accordingly updating their operations to match those changes, focusing on their business models, go-to-market strategies, and brand strategies to help their businesses match those shifts.”