Don't worry, the bubble's gonna pop soon anyway. All the greedy people who got into brewing to make loads of money will realize their folly and leave the industry, leaving only our passionate, insane, poor saviors.
This is more true than many think. It will take a while, but someday the surge in growth will have reached a point where the market will adjust.
The guys from Founder said a few years back that they were going to grow to be established when things got lean in the future.
the bubble is only going to break soon if you assume that themarket can only support 1 brewery per 100,000 drinkers or similar. Pre-prohibition the breweries:drinkers ratio was much higher than it is today. Even today, in many european countries that ratio is much much higher than today in the USA.
a random sampling of related media: http://www.brewersassociation.org/insights/how-many-breweries-can-us-take/
if we take the mid point between what that article poses as a reasonable level for the USA (~7100 breweries) and what a ratio in line with Switzerland (~15000 breweries) there is still quite a bit of room to grow from our current ~3100 breweries.
And we can see how the market share of the Big Ones is falling. They are huge so it doesn't seem like much at this point but it will likely continue.
There will always be adjustments in the market, saturated markets will adjust, out and out bad breweries will start to fail more often as the market matures but we are still a ways any sort of bursting bubble.
Switzerland does not have 15000 breweries, that was an extrapolation to what the US would have for the same number of breweries per capita. Gemany has about 1300 breweries, about 85 million people, so on a per capita basis that comes to about 5200 for the US on the same per capita basis compared to Germany.
Comparing to Switzerland or Germany is a numbers game, as those breweries are well established for the most part, make good quality beer (for the most part). Many family breweries are closing due to cost pressures, or that the kids of the brewer do not want to spend the long hours for low returns and would rather have a high paid office job. Edit, not so long ago Germany had about 1600 breweries when I lived there, 15 years back.
I did say the expansion is going to continue for a while. There are too many opening around here making dodgy beer for the first year or longer. With so many in the planning stages the US will be at the 5200 or even the 7100 number in a few years or more. Then what? There was a shake out in the late 90s due to too many poor quality beers, fly by night fast buck guys, and poorly funded breweries. It is not a case of if but when.
never meant to imply that Switzerland had 15000 breweries. I was referring to the breweries:drinkers ratio and what that would mean in the US. My point, and I just picked an article off the top of a good search to support it, was that just because the old model only allowed for 3 big breweries and a handful of regional players we're not really sure what the new model allows for. And it has a lot to do with the intention of the entrepreneur who is starting out the brewery. a relatively small permanent population combined with a healthy transient tourist population can support a great number of breweries, apparently given that Vermont can support 6.2 breweries:100,000 potential drinkers. extrapolated out to the national population somewhere in the high 10000 range.
that being said, My response was more directed at narvins comment RE: soon. What I see happening is a rolling pattern. As nanos expand into micros and micros expand into mega-craft new room opens up at the nano level. there is obviously attrition along the way and some portion of the brewers will never want to expand. growth will slow to keep pace with population growth.
Sometimes I read too literally.
An area with tourists (ski towns, towns at the entrance to a National Park) and college towns are naturals for small breweries. States such as Vermont and Oregon have the tourism and the local populations that take to craft beer.
There is room for more growth for sure. Michigan has the 5th highest amount of breweries in the US, but the share of craft in Michigan is below the national average. There are still many who think they are going upscale when they order Labatts, lots of Labatts here.
Remembering the late 90s, there were patterns that happen that lead to the slowdown. Breweries making poor quality beer, quick buck artists getting into the game, people doing it because it was "cool". We are in a boom time, but booms are followed by busts. I don't see a collapse, but there will be a slow down or adjustment someday. Many of the Craft brewing veterans have said as much.