US Beer Shipments Fell 1.5 Percent in 2011

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Unemployment, growth of wine, spirits sales tap suds demand, industry group says
The beer market appears to have gone flat, with total U.S. beer shipments dropping 1.5 percent in 2011 to 204.9 million barrels, according to the Beer Institute.

The group estimates U.S. shipments of domestic and imported beer declined for the third straight year in 2011 after peaking in 2008 at 213.3 million barrels. The Beer Institute blames the decline on increased sales of wine, liquor and non-alcoholic beverage,s and high unemployment among core beer drinkers — young males.

A shift to high-end, super-premium and specialty craft beers that cost more and drive less volume growth also drains overall shipment volumes, the institute said. In recent years, Americans have been pouring more imports. The number of barrels imported climbed 4.9 percent in 2010, according to the institute.

But the Beer Institute estimates imports dropped 0.5 percent year-over-year in 2011, according to data published online in the institute’s December 2011 newsletter. Imported beers are still gaining market share, accounting for 13.2 percent of total U.S. beer shipments in 2011, it said.