To the casual observer, it might seem like major national and international breweries still dominate the US beer market, and, at least to some extent, that is true. You'll have no problem finding a six-pack of Budweiser at your local convenience store, but it might take some doing to get your hands on a six-pack of Sweetwater Ale, unless you live within the brewery's limited distribution range. However, for those looking deeper at the industry, craft beers have enjoyed a considerable surge in popularity.
One of the most significant factors here is the number of microbreweries now operating in the United States. In 2004, there were just over 300 of them. Today, there more than 450 of them in operation all over the nation, an increase of 25%. There were more than 100 added just between '09 and 2010. That's more growth than the large breweries can claim, certainly, even in the wake of the consolidation wave that has swept the global brewing industry.
The volume of craft beer sold also rose four full percentage points during the first half of 2010 (from 5 to 9%). However, major breweries were actually down by almost 3% for the same period. When you combine that growth with the lingering economic problems, it is a sure sign that consumers are devoted to enjoying their craft beers and that isn't changing any time soon.
Another sign that craft beers are still rising in popularity is the percentage of people brewing their own at home, as is the growth of brewpubs. There are also new trends to contend with in the world of craft beers, such as the aforementioned brewpubs. These are usually very small microbreweries that brew their own beer and sell it to patrons within their establishment (for onsite consumption). Another interesting trend is the shift of some small breweries away from consumer distribution to supplying bars and restaurants where the beer is consumed onsite.
When taken together (or even singly), these trends certainly show that craft beer is still rising in popularity. In fact, more and more people think of locally brewed beer when shopping at the store or even when dining out than ever before. These trends promise to further loosen the stranglehold by the major brewing companies and further diversify the market – to the benefit of both microbreweries and end consumers, as well.