Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy has been brewing beer for more than 25 years, but he's never seen a sea change in his market quite like the one taking place today.
Though beer consumption nationwide is down overall, craft beer's popularity is on the rise, growing from less than 1 percent of the market in 1988 to 10 percent today--and more like 15 percent when you factor in the "craft-like" beers major distributors are making, according to Hindy.
Though the number of craft breweries in the U.S. has exploded during this time frame--growing from fewer than 50 to roughly 3,000, Hindy thinks the U.S. can sustain as many as 5,000 breweries, thanks to shifting consumer preferences and the ability on the part of beer entrepreneurs to use social media as a marketing tool.
"You can start a little brewery in the middle of nowhere now and everyone will probably know about it before it even opens," Hindy said at a recent roundtable hosted by Inc. "The consumer is very motivated to learn about these small breweries."
Brooklyn Lager, the first beer Hindy ever sold, remains his company's best-selling beer and accounts for just over half his production, with the other half comprised of a wide variety of seasonal beers.
"We need to keep our consumer excited about our company and we do that through all these special brews," he says. "Beer drinkers are going to look for more brands that they can trust in the quality of the product and that's going to be what's going to make the difference long term."
As beer shelves get more and more crowded with craft brews, however, consolidation of the industry is likely to kick in.
"Big beer distributors from coast to coast are very aggressivley pursuing craft brewers, and that's a sea change," Hindy says. "Today any craft brewery starting up anywhere in America is going to have all the big distributors in their market trying to get their hands on the product because it's the only segment of the American beer industry that's growing."
To hear more about the craft beer revolution, watch the video below.