Are Breweries the New Bars?

Taprooms see as a boom as the Beer Institute reports draft beer sales are at an all-time high.

Photo: dschnarrs/Getty Images

Craft beer has always had a local bent, but as the number of breweries has skyrocketed over the past half-decade, more and more small brewers are eschewing the battles of distribution and expansion and instead simply trying to sell as much beer as possible directly out of their taprooms. The craft beer trade group the Brewers Association has continued to emphasize the importance of these small breweries to the growth of beer as a whole. Now, new data from the Beer Institute further supports that assertion: The percentage of draft beer people are drinking when they go out has hit an all-time high, driven in part by a growing brewery taproom culture.

The Beer Institute—a trade organization for brewers of all sizes—recently released its annual report on trends in beer packaging, and the growth in draft was one of the biggest highlights. "Draft beer's share of on-premise increased by 1.8 points to 61.7 percent," the BI wrote on its website, "the highest on-premise draft share ever directly measured by the Beer Institute. Although its growth is visible in all areas of on-premise, own-premise outlets, including taprooms and brewpubs, are driving much of the growth."

As that statement mentions, the growth in draft isn't solely happening in taprooms. As draft beer options have continued to get more interesting over the years, more beer lovers have apparently been shifting towards drinking draft when they're out over bottles and cans in general. This shift can also be seen in another stat cited by the Beer Institute: The more standard 15.5-gallon keg size is losing share to smaller barrel sizes like quarter barrels and sixth barrels as bars look to rotate their beers more quickly and have a wider breadth of options available.

But to distill all this draft talk down to its simplest message, more people are apparently drinking more beer at the brewery than we've seen in modern beer history. That's a major shift. Not long ago, going on a brewery tour was a bit of a novelty; now, whether at a taproom or a brewpub, people are seeking out the beers they want to drink at the source. For brewers willing to follow that model, it's actually potentially good news: It's a lot easier to sell something if people are coming directly to you to buy it.

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