Will the craft beer industry boom or bust?

- By the end of 2016, New York State craft brewers will make about a quarter billion pints of beer. That's a lot, but still only enough to give us drinking-age New Yorkers less than two per month. That's why people like Brewers Association Chief Economist Bart Watson say the industry is fine.

"The growth in breweries is built on solid demand fundamentals," Watson says. "Beer lovers want fuller flavor, they want more variety, and they want beers from small and independent local producers."

Local is the key word here. The farm-to-table movement applies to craft beer, too.

New York brewers, like Pat Greene at Chelsea Craft Brewing Company, can get New York ingredients, which is what the people want.

"The population is younger, professional, well educated, and also enjoys fresh ingredients in their products not only in their beer but their food and their wine," Greene says. "And the brewer now can make those small batches of beer and serve them locally."

The big difference between the bust of the late 1990s and today is the beer is just a lot better. The people making it are smarter and more experienced. The ingredients are fresher and local. And this is another thing these breweries have: tap rooms. The tap rooms let them sell directly to the consumer. That helps them withstand downturns in the industry.

"For many breweries, those direct sales, they're a lifeline," Watson says. "And even if sales decrease in wider distribution we've seen breweries pull back to their taprooms and continue to stay in business."

"A lot of the breweries are designed just for that," Greene says. "Their equipment I'd say is a little bit bigger than a home brewer's where they can do small-batch beer and they know that every ounce of that is going to be sold at a retail price so their markups are good and they can survive."

Even if there is no bubble right now, craft beer sales are down. But companies like Boston Beer Company, the maker of Sam Adams, are playing a big role in that. They're still "craft" brewers but their sales are slumping. And while these producers are nowhere near as big as Budweiser or Miller, Fortune Magazine's John Kell says craft beer drinkers might feel like they're still too big.

"People kind of want to discover something new when they are discovering a craft beer so for a company like Sam Adams that's been around for over 30 years at this point doesn't feel very local," Kell says. "People are really excited about experiencing something that's new, and tasting something that's very local. When they travel they want to taste a local beer -- that's part of the experience."

So while the bigger brewers do have things to figure out, your smaller, local tap rooms will still be pouring plenty of pints for the foreseeable future.

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