top of page

What are the Top Trends in Brewery Design?

The craft brewing industry is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. The history of modern craft brewing began in the 1960s, started to blossom in the 1990s,  truly took off in the early 2000s, and now accounts for over ¼ of the US’s beer market. According to the Brewers Association, a non-profit trade association, overall U.S. beer volume sales were up 1% in 2021, while craft brewer volume sales grew 8%, raising small and independent brewers’ share of the U.S. beer market by volume to 13.1%. Retail dollar sales of craft increased to $26.8 billion and now account for just under 27% of the $100 billion U.S. beer market.

In 2021, 710 new breweries opened in the United States, totaling over 9,100 operating beer producers in the U.S. This industry accounts for 400,000 total jobs, with 140,000 of those directly working at brewery locations. With the growth of the craft brewing industry also comes the competition for customers. How do you choose your favorite local taproom to frequent? What can craft brewers and their designers do to maintain their clientele? What design elements do customers gravitate towards in these spaces?

Exile Brewing - Des Moines, IA

Keep it Local

While design trends vary regionally across the United States, there is a common thread aesthetically across the brewing industry that lends to the authenticity of the craft business. Because breweries tend to find themselves adapting older structures more often than building new, each area of the US has very unique breweries that speak to the local architecture, industry, and culture. There is a market for affordable real estate in the form of abandoned industrial buildings, churches, fire stations, barns, train stations, warehouses, and now with the ever-changing workplace, office space. Can you imagine a brewery in your old bank office downtown? That’s exactly what new craft-brewers are looking for when finding a space.

Local artisans have a stake in the brewery industry as well. In order to create an aura of authenticity and local flare, breweries are tapping the creative market for new artwork, furniture pieces, wall finishes, and unique elements to curate their spaces. Why maintain a basic CMU wall when a local artist can create a mural that speaks to your brand? This allows breweries to help stimulate their neighborhood and create more interest for all establishments around their area. Walkability is becoming more and more important where you can enjoy your day outside at multiple destinations, as opposed to driving to a singular destination for the day.

Kinship Brewing outdoor patio - Waukee, IA

Outdoor Seating

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: COVID-19 has changed so much in our day-to-day lives, and one thing that has remained consistent is the desire for high-quality outdoor seating. Breweries have truly embraced that to its fullest extent, with some locations having small interior spaces only designed to order your beer and get out to the beer garden to enjoy the weather.

In more temperate climates, this is done more easily all year round, but for those of us in the Midwest, Northeast, or Pacific Northwest, the winters can provide harsh conditions that make it difficult to sit outside and enjoy your craft beer. There are a number of creative solutions to combat less than ideal weather conditions. From outdoor heaters, covered porches, and traditional fire pits to patio fire tables, heated igloos, and more, there is no shortage of ways to have a pint regardless of what Mother Nature is doing. This trend also includes better outdoor lighting so that breweries can stay open later without worrying about a dark or unsafe patio space.

Following this trend, some areas in the United States have adopted local policies allowing customers to purchase alcoholic beverages at one location and carry them around an area designated for open-container alcoholic beverages. For example, in the Columbus, OH region, there are 10+ “Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas” or DORA. Through these programs, residents and visitors can purchase an alcoholic beverage and enjoy it while strolling the streets and taking in shops or entertainment within a set boundary. Many communities around Columbus have adopted this practice during certain times or events

Olentangy Brewing - Lewis Center, OH

Good Eats

Keeping customers in your space and spending money is always a goal, whether you own a grocery store or a hair salon, or a brewery. For the craft brewing industry, that means finding a way to keep your customers happy, relatively sober (ish), and fed. All three of these tasks can be accomplished by providing food. While commercial restaurant kitchens can be more expensive for a number of reasons, some breweries are diving into the deep end with full restaurant concepts attached to their taproom. For others, it’s more cost-effective to invite/pay local food trucks or vendors to set up shop in their patios or beer gardens. This is yet another way breweries can support their local communities. The final food option for many breweries is to allow patrons to bring their own food, or have it delivered. Food trucks and delivery methods do not directly generate profit for the brewery, but they greatly decrease the cost of operating that comes with a full restaurant.

To-Go Sales

During the height of the pandemic, beer delivery and to-go sales are what kept many breweries afloat when their taprooms were not able to open for indoor seating. That adaptation is here to stay. Many craft brewers have even taken to making this to-go sales area a highlight or feature of their design instead of an afterthought. With dedicated signage, purchase counters, displays, and refrigeration, to-go six-packs are easy and quick to pick up when you’re on the go, or if the brewery is closing for the night and you can’t get enough of their best double IPA.

Lua Brewing - Des Moines, IA

Equipment as Décor

How do you make sure your customers know that you brew beer in-house? Show them the equipment used to do so! From creating a large glass wall highlighting the behind-the-scenes efforts to using your equipment to separate seating areas or guide customers through your space, this trend manifests in a variety of ways. This trend follows the “authenticity” and “local” flare that we mentioned previously. It also lends to a more industrial or raw aesthetic that is typical in brewery design. This can manifest in ductwork, HVAC equipment, building-original fixtures or finishes, and so much more. It’s cost-effective and unique to incorporate these existing elements into the aesthetic.

Nocterra Brewing - Dublin, OH

Final Thoughts

The great thing about all of the trends that we listed above is that each contributes to the individuality and diversity of the craft brewing business. One brewery in Des Moines, IA might be a former horse barn with large garage doors that open to bring the outside in and plenty of food trucks in their gravel lot. Another brewery in Columbus, OH could be a former tire shop with a rooftop patio and a full restaurant. There isn’t one successful recipe for a craft brewery, but the audience does want to see variety, authenticity, and great beer.



bottom of page