PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The business of beer was on tap Friday at the second annual New England Craft Brew Summit, held at the University of Southern Maine.
Hundreds of brewers from across New England met to discuss the industry. Maine is a leader, with more than 100 active brewers' licenses.
Keynote speaker Bart Watson is chief economist for the Brewers Association. He told the crowd the growth rate of craft beer is slowing nationwide because the industry is maturing and the field is now more competitive. The days of 18 percent growth are over — this year the growth rate was a more modest 6 percent.
"We're getting to a more mature marketplace," Watson said. "It's hard to grow when you're not a beginning industry, but still lots of opportunities out there. Still going to see growth change. It's won't stop, it'll just be different."
Watson said there are 90 breweries in Maine, and the Portland market is the epicenter. He said any new growth should come from communities outside of the Greater Portland Area that don't have a craft beer presence yet.
Brewers were also told to be active in pushing for legislation that will help their industry, paying special attention to farm bills.
Maine Beer Company owner Daniel Kleban said he and his brother got into the business eight years ago with a commitment to make quality beer and hope for slow, steady growth. They are now in 17 states and in the middle of a major expansion project.
Kleban said anyone new coming into the industry will have a hard time breaking into beer markets beyond Maine because competition has increased. Thinking local and finding communities that are still thirsty for craft beer is a better strategy for success.