Despite a rough economy, the craft beer market continues to grow and expand aggressively. Craft beer sales increased by 14 percent in the first half of 2011 (to 5.1 million barrels), despite the fact the overall beer market actually shrank over the same period. The Brewers Association counted 1,740 craft breweries throughout the country with another 725 in planning stages.
Several larger craft breweries— Sierra Nevada and New Belgium are cited— plan major expansion plans designed to increase their distribution throughout the country. "It's like Silicon Valley right now, or Florence during the Renaissance,'' says Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Company.