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Oktoberfest Starts a Season of Libations

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O’zapft is!

As Germans tap the ceremonial first barrel of beer this Saturday, marking the start of the 185th Oktoberfest in Munich, we take this opportunity to look at the U.S. alcohol industry through multiple economic surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

For the alcohol industry, Oktoberfest launches a robust season of libations that will extend to Thanksgiving and Christmas, ending with the cork-popping sound of New Year’s celebrations.

Alcohol trade growth seen in the economic indicators was mirrored in the expansion of domestic breweries and wineries.

Our snapshot of the industry comes by way of wholesale, retail and international trade statistics.

Alcohol data are represented here under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS):

  • International Trade NAICS 31212, 31213, 31214: Imports and exports of malt, beer, wines, brandy, other brandy spirits and distilled liquors.
  • Wholesale Trade NAICS 4248: Establishments primarily engaged in the merchant wholesale distribution of beer, ale, porter, other fermented malt beverages, wine, distilled alcoholic beverages, and/or neutral spirits and ethyl alcohol used in blended wines and distilled liquors.
  • Retail Trade NAICS 4453: Establishments primarily engaged in retailing packaged alcoholic beverages, such as ale, beer, wine and liquor.

Alcohol Manufacturing Establishments.

  • Breweries NAICS 312120: Establishments primarily engaged in brewing beer, ale, malt liquors and nonalcoholic beer.
  • Wineries NAICS 312130: Establishments primarily engaged in one or more of the following: (1) growing grapes and manufacturing wines and brandies; (2) manufacturing wines and brandies from grapes and other fruits grown elsewhere; and (3) blending wines and brandies.
  • Distilleries NAICS 312140: Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing nonpotable ethyl alcohol, bottling liquors made elsewhere than classified in NAICS 424820 and manufacturing brandies not covered in 312130.

Interested in Domestic Breweries?

As Oktoberfest continues and Manufacturing Week begins in early October, America Counts will continue the celebration with a detailed exploration of growth in the microbrewery industry in counties across the nation.

Happy Hour: Economic Indicators Tap the Earliest Signs

The closest thing to happy hour for alcohol statistics is the economic indicators.

The alcohol industry is represented across many of the 13 economic indicators the Census Bureau produces and releases. Because indicator data are released for different economic sectors every few days, a new round of alcohol data is served up just as fast.

For instance, June 2018 statistical data were released for the following areas:

In a recent webinar on wholesale, retail and international trade indicators in a global marketplace, we compared alcohol data across multiple indicators to get a better picture of the historical state of trade across the alcohol industry.

In the graphic below, we look at statistics through June 2018. Wholesale trade, excluding manufacturers' sales branches and offices, has the largest measured dollar volume of alcohol trade, followed by retail trade, general imports and, finally, total exports of alcohol.


Distilling Wholesale Value: Using the Economic Census

Using values from the most recently published 2012 Economic Census, we get a better picture of who is driving wholesale trade sales. While almost two-thirds of the sales expectedly pass to retailers, the remaining third is split primarily between other wholesalers and distributors for resale, and restaurants, hotels and food service.


'Eine Maß Bier Bitte': One More Beer, Please

Alcohol trade growth seen in the economic indicators was mirrored in the expansion of domestic breweries and wineries. The most recent data from County Business Patterns show that the number of breweries (NAICS 312120) and wineries (NAICS 312130) in the United States has grown between 2015 and 2016. Though a bit older, similar data from the most recently published economic censuses in 2007 and 2012 support industrywide growth in breweries, wineries and distilleries (NAICS 312140).

Either way, these surveys show one thing is for sure: Breweries are booming.

Are you interested in learning more about the growth in domestic breweries? As Oktoberfest continues and Manufacturing Week begins the first week of October, America Counts will celebrate both with a detailed look at the booming microwbrewery industry.





Whether you celebrate Oktoberfest raising a stein of your favorite imported Bavarian beer or locally brewed domestic, the language of celebration is universal.

John Sperry is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Economic Indicators Division.

Note: Differences between estimates may be attributed to sampling or nonsampling error, rather than to differences in underlying economic conditions. Caution should be used in drawing conclusions from the estimates and comparisons shown.


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