U.S. Beer Sales Climb To Nearly $100 Billion On Strength Of Craft, Premium Brews

Total U.S. beer sales rose two percent in 2011, to $98.94 billion, largely on strength in demand for craft, imported and premium beer, according to statistics from the Beer Institute.

Beer sales were especially strong in bars and restaurants. Revenue grew three percent in that category, while so-called "off-premises sales," at places like liquor stores, convenience stores and supermarkets, rose less than one percent. The Beer Institute said that 56 percent of the money Americans spent on beer last year was spent in bars and restaurants -- though higher prices on-premises meant that a full 81 percent of the total volume of beer was purchased for off-premises consumption.

The most sluggish category in the beer market was standard domestic beer, as it has been for several years. Things are rather dire. A September report by 24/7 Wall Street on the grievousness of the state of big box American brewers showed that sales of marquee brands plummeted by more than half between 2007 and 2010.

Tiffany Hsu of the LA Times attributed the disparity between mid-shelf sales and those for premium brews to the lingering impact of the recession on middle-income consumers, who have traditionally been the most enthusiastic consumers of domestic beer.

That -- or people realized, after tasting ethereal nectars like Victory Moonglow and Unibroue Fin Du Monde, that beer isn't supposed to taste like "soapy water."