Interview with Bart Watson, Chief Economist at the Brewers Association

Interview was done at The 8th annual Convention of the AMBQ (Québec's Microbreweries Convention) in November 2

Your will be giving a conference called THE CRAFT BEER INDUSTRY IN NORTH AMERICA. Can you give us resume?


I’m the Chief Economist at the Brewers Association, a trade association that represents small and independent brewers. We have more than 3,500 members in the United States as well as hundreds of foreign brewers (mostly Canadian). Prior to working at the BA, I’ve been a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa and a lecturer at the University of California – Berkeley and I hold a PhD in Political Science, with a focus on Political Economy.               

 Can you give us a general picture of the Craft Industry in the USA? 

First, the market is very diverse, so talking about a single national industry is difficult. State-by-state rules mean what the industry looks like in Colorado isn’t what it looks like in Mississippi. That said, we’ve seen growth all across the country, albeit at different levels. The US now has more breweries than at any time in its history. Small and independent brewers have more than 12% volume share of the market, and 21% retail dollar share, and both continue to grow.

What can the Craft Industry in Canada learn from the one in the USA? and vice and Versa?

Well, I think there’s always a lot of people can learn from individual brewery stories. At a more macro level, I think Canada can learn something about the regulatory structure and protecting small entrant breweries from the market power of incumbents. That not to say to create advantages for small brewers, but rather there need to be rules in place for a level playing field where small brewers can actually compete and let consumers decide. In the other direction, because Canadian brewers have more experience in a tough regulatory environment, I think American brewers can learn a few things about how to compete with the large brewers as they move into the fuller-flavored space.

What are the trends in the Craft Industry?

Stylistically, we see this going in both directions. Hoppy beers, particularly IPAs, continue to be popular, but we’re also seeing the rise of more sessional (i.e. lower ABV) styles, such as pilsners, blond ales, kolches, and more.


Whats missing in the Craft Industry, to take it to the next level?

The challenges will continue to be market access and consumer education. That’s true in both Canada and the US. Solve those and there are lots of reasons to believe that consumer demand will push the craft industry higher.

photo © Brewers Association