Q: What’s new for GABF this year?

A: Craft beers are growing in popularity and now make up more than 95 percent of today’s 1,600 U.S. breweries. Annual production of beer for a craft brewer is less than 2 million barrels, and less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer. Craft brewers sold an estimated 9,115,635 barrels of beer in 2009, up from 8,501,713 in 2008.

New beer styles such as the American-Belgo-Style ale and India Pale ale are becoming more popular. Specialty beers like 750-mL ‘dinner table’ bottles and seasonal beers are also gaining popularity.

Q: Sales of domestic brews have reportedly been soft. What can this be attributed to, and how are brewers responding?

A: Large global breweries that produce more than 2 million barrels are competing in a changing marketplace where today's beer lover also wants fuller flavored ales and lagers that don't use adjuncts to lighten body. A different beer for different occasions is on their minds as they shop. No longer does a light American lager satisfy every beer occasion. The large brewers are responding by paying attention to what the small brewers are doing and are coming out with more beers for their customers to try.

Q: Craft brewers seem to be becoming more popular than ever. Why do you think this is?

A: The American palate has become more advanced, and many beer lovers understand and welcome the diversity of today’s more than 100 beer styles. Craft beer is often being chosen over wine as a food pairing in many situations. Customers appreciate the innovative and unique ingredients used in craft brews. The growing popularity of buying local can also be attributed to the rise in popularity of craft breweries.

Q: How is the beer industry keeping up with the skyrocketing demand for craft beer?

A: There has been lots of expansion on the brewery level to keep up with increasing demand. The U.S. now boasts 1,625 breweries, an increase of 100 additional breweries since July 2009, and the highest number in 100 years.

Q: What do you see in the future for the brewing industry?

A: More craft brewers, more growth and more beer styles. There will be more success for craft brewer brands in the market place (getting to market on the menu and store shelf). Beer tourism will continue to increase so beer lovers can tour craft breweries. More chefs and beer lovers will pair and cook with craft beer, and there will be continued community citizenship by craft brewers. The future looks bright.

Interview by Lindsey Coblentz, Associate Editor