American craft beers defy downturn

Beneath the mass of bland, amber, soft-drink-like American beers there bubbles a vibrant craft brewing industry. But apart from the wonderful Samuel Adams specialties, we seldom glimpse these in Australia, despite the best efforts of a handful of importers.

According to, at December 2008 craft beer accounted for 4.3% by volume and 6.3% by value of American beer sales. That means America’s 1,482 craft brewers sold 8.6 million barrels of beer (about 1 billion litres) worth $US6.3 billion in 2008 – comparable in value to Australia’s total beer market.

In the first six months of 2009 as overall US beer sales declined 1.3% and imported beers plummeted 9.5%, craft volume and value increased – and that was on top of 5.9% volume and 10.1% value increases in 2008, at the height of the GFC.

While Americans keep most of the best stuff at home (who can blame them for sending Millers, Bud and Coors offshore?), you find good American brews online at And, in Canberra, Plonk (Fyshwick Markets) offers an idiosyncratic range from Rogue Brewery, Oregon, and Flying Dog Brewery, of Colorado and Maryland.

Next week we’ll look at Flying Dog’s quirky offerings – including the rabid 11.5% alcohol, off-the-scale-bitter Double Dog Double Pale Ale.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2009