But like it or not, the great craft beer sellout is on. The craft beer landscape is radically different than it was when Cantwell began brewing. It's changed almost as substantially between this year and last, when we first warned you that a massive shift was underway. Since then, the number of American craft breweries has swollen to 4,600, even as craft beer's growth is flattening out. Year-over-year volume was up just 8% in July 2016, and will likely remain under double digits for the year -- only the third time in the past decade that that's happened. That's still better than overall beer consumption in the US, which has been slowly giving up market share to wine and spirits since the '80s.
For those reasons, and a few more, craft brewers across the country have been lining their war chests with institutional capital, or aligning themselves under the banner of Big Beer, looking for quick cash to expand, amp up distribution, or just retire on. In the past 24 months, "strategic partners" (i.e., bigger beer companies) bought Ballast Point, Elysian, 10 Barrel, Hop Valley, Terrapin, Revolver, Devils Backbone, and Saint Archer outright. Lagunitas sold 50% to Heineken; Founders sold 30% to Mahou San Miguel; Firestone Walker joined Ommegang and Boulevard under Duvel Moortgat's tent. Hell, as this article went to print, Brooklyn Brewery announced it had sold 24.5% of its company to Kirin, the Japanese corporation.