The craft beer industry continues to grow steadily, but there's more competition now.
That's according to Bart Watson, the chief economist at the Brewers Association – the trade group that represents small and independent craft brewers in the U.S. The group released data on craft brewing growth Tuesday.
Here's a look at the numbers, and what they mean for the craft brewing industry:
There were 5,301 breweries operating in the U.S. in 2016, which is up 16.6 percent from the year before. Of those, 5,234 are craft brewers (based on the Brewers Association's definition of one) – that's 99 percent of the beer production companies in operation last year.
Of the craft breweries, 1,916 are brewpubs (11 percent more than 2015); 3,132 are microbreweries (21 percent more than last year); 186 regional craft breweries (up 4 percent from last year).
In total, 826 breweries opened in the U.S. last year. Only 97 closed.
Small, independent craft brewers make up 12.3 percent market share by volume of the overall beer industry. The graphic above shows how the volume share has changed since 2011, when there were 1,977 craft breweries operating in the U.S.
That's how many barrels of beer craft brewers produced last year – a 6 percent rise in volume. But that's slower than the 12-15 percent growth the craft brewing industry had shown in recent years.
"The era of 18 percent growth rate is probably over," Watson said during a conference call Tuesday, according to Fortune. "Having those growth rates in an industry of this size is impossible going forward."
The slowdown is partly because craft beer is so popular. This has led to large brewers buying up craft breweries to continue to grow their business – but when that happens the craft brewery is no longer considered "craft" based on the Brewers Association's definition.
The craft beer segment lost 1.2 million barrels last year from breweries that were purchased by the big guys, the Brewers Association says. But craft breweries made up for that by adding 1.4 million barrels, with microbreweries and brewpubs accounting for 90 percent of that.
"Small and independent brewers were able to fill in the barrels lost to acquisitions and show steady growth but at a rate more reflective of today’s industry dynamics," Watson said in a news release. "The average brewer is getting smaller and growth is more diffuse within the craft category, with producers at the tail helping to drive growth for the overall segment."
That's how many jobs craft breweries provided last year, an increase of nearly 7,000 from the number of jobs there were in the craft beer industry in 2015.
You can read more about the growth of the craft beer industry in 2016 here.