More than half of the Top 50 Brewers Association-defined craft brewing companies posted volume growth in 2019, according to data published in the May/June edition of the not-for-profit trade group’s New Brewer magazine.
2019’s volume gains broke a streak of three consecutive years in which the majority of regional craft brewing companies — defined as those producing between 15,000 and six million barrels of beer annually — did not grow. In 2019, 27 of the top 50 small and independent breweries by volume posted positive volume growth, while 23 companies either declined or remained flat. In fact, regional breweries collectively posted 1% volume growth in 2019.
The total craft category, as defined by the BA, held steady at 4% volume growth in 2019, to a total of 26.3 million barrels. The growth number has hovered around 4% over the last three years, but continued growth remains uncertain due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. craft brewing industry.
The two largest craft breweries by volume in 2019 — D.G. Yuengling & Son and Boston Beer Company — both recorded volume declines in 2019. Yuengling’s nearly 2.7 million barrels were more than double Boston Beer’s estimated beer production of 1.75 million barrels. Sierra Nevada (+1%) was the only other BA-defined craft brewery producing more than 1 million barrels of beer.
The BA’s production figure for Boston Beer includes the Samuel Adams brand, but does not include those of its offerings such as Truly Hard Seltzer (the second best-selling hard seltzer on the market) and Twisted Tea, or offerings from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, which is ranked separately as the 13th largest craft brewery, growing 1%, to 277,727 barrels. Boston Beer and Dogfish Head completed their merger last July.
Boston Beer reported in February that it shipped a total of 5.3 million barrels of its entire portfolio of products in 2019.
Six of the top 10 craft breweries posted volume growth, including the aforementioned Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Company (+4%, 886,500 barrels), Firestone Walker Brewing Company (+16%, 525,294 barrels), Bell’s Brewery, Inc. (+5%, 494,081), the CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective (+14%, 479,476 barrels) and Artisanal Brewing Ventures (+2%, 317,688 barrels).
The only other top 10 craft breweries to record negative volume growth in 2019 were Shiner maker the Spoetzl Brewery (517,443 barrels) and Stone Brewing (395,000 barrels), which each declined 1%, which amounted to a loss of between 4,000 and 5,000 barrels for each brewery.
Firestone Walker accounted for all 10% of Duvel Moortgat USA’s growth, as volumes declined at both Boulevard Brewing Co. (-3%) in Kansas City, Missouri, and Brewery Ommegang (-14%) in Cooperstown, New York.
Other top 20 craft breweries growing volumes in 2019 included Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewing Company (+7%), Wisconsin’s New Glarus Brewing Company (+2%), Minhas Craft Brewery (+19%), and Fort Collins, Colorado-headquartered Odell Brewing Co (+5%).
Growth was also harder to achieve for past fast-rising craft breweries. Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist Brewery, which crossed the 100,000-barrel threshold in 2018, increased volumes 6%, to 106,024 barrels in 2019. Popular Pennsylvania brewery Tröegs Independent Brewing posted low single-digit growth of 3%, producing 105,096 barrels.
For many of the top 50, the story was steady mid- to low single-digit growth, such as San Diego’s Karl Strauss Brewing Company (+2%), Massachusetts’ Wachusett Brewing Company (+5%) and Houston’s Saint Arnold Brewing Company (+1%).
San Diego’s Modern Times Beer rocketed into the top 50, growing volumes 36%, to 70,150 barrels. And after a year of flat volumes, Lost Coast Brewery grew 12%. The fortunes weren’t as good for other California breweries Bear Republic Brewing Co. and North Coast Brewing Co., which declined 11% and 15%, respectively, and fell outside of the top 50 breweries.
Massachusetts continued to be a hub of craft growth, as Massachusetts’ Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers (+15%), Lord Hobo Brewing Co. (+25%), Night Shift Brewing (+21%), Wormtown Brewery (+27%) and Trillium Brewing Company (+32%) each recorded strong double-digit growth.
Volumes at Tree House Brewing Company declined an estimated 3%, to 43,000 barrels. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the company’s sales were made directly to consumers at its destination brewery, and Tree House ranked as the BA’s top taproom brewery by volume, nearly doubling the volume of the next largest taproom brewery, Covington, Kentucky’s Braxton Brewing Company, which increased its own volumes 96%, to 23,500 barrels.
Collectively, taproom breweries increased production 26% in 2019, the first year in which the BA broke out taprooms as a new brewer class — defined as those companies selling more than 25% of their beer onsite, lacking significant food service and producing fewer than six million barrels a year.
Among the sharpest of declines was for Utah’s Uinta Brewing Co., which declined 40%, to 47,540 barrels, after retrenching in recent years. San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Co. also continued its tumble, declining an estimated 26%, to 33,338 barrels, down from its peak in 2015 of 81,287 barrels.
Within the top 100 breweries, there were still pockets of strong double- and triple-digit growth, including Georgia’s Creature Comforts Brewing Co. (+28%), New York’s Montauk Brewing Company (+23%), California’s Drake’s Brewing Co. (+20%), Oregon’s Pelican Brewing Company (+20%), California’s Belching Beaver Brewery (+23%) and New Mexico’s Santa Fe Brewing Co. (+17%). Scottish craft beer maker’s BrewDog continued their fast ascent in the U.S., increasing volumes 77%, to 43,559 barrels of beer.
California’s Russian River Brewing Company doubled production to 34,943 barrels in 2019, with the addition of its new facility in Windsor, growing 105%.
Outside of the top 100, fast movers included Oregon’s PFriem Family Brewers (+46%, to 29,095 barrels), New Jersey’s Cape May Brewing Company (+72%, to 27,922 barrels), Vermont’s Fiddlehead Brewing (+32%, to 26,628 barrels), Georgia’s Scofflaw Brewing Co. (+86%, to 26,000 barrels), New York’s Sloop Brewing (+250%, to 25,300 barrels), Connecticut’s New England Brewing (+63%, to 25,000 barrels), Maine Beer Co. (+28%, to 24,996 barrels), New York’s Singlecut Beersmiths (+71%, to 24,000 barrels), Washington’s Reuben’s Brews (+47%, to 20,826 barrels) and Colorado’s Denver Beer Co. (+33%, to 20,808 barrels).
Microbreweries, companies producing fewer than 15,000 barrels, collectively grew volumes 6%. Just one of the top 10 microbreweries by volume declined in 2019: Minnesota’s Bent Paddle Brewing, down 17%.
The top four microbreweries — Ohio’s Jackie O’s (+7%), New York’s Other Half Brewing Company (+12%), Utah’s Moab Brewery (+11%) and California’s Almanac (+66%) — each produced 14,500 barrels. Other top 10 micros were also carving out strong growth, including California’s Heretic (+30%) and Dust Bowl (+23%) and North Carolina’s Sycamore Brewing (+113%), and each above 14,000 barrels. Other top 10 micros were also carving out strong growth, including California’s Heretic (+30%) and Dust Bowl (+23%).
The BA also shared volume data for regional craft breweries owned by large beer manufacturers, such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors Beverage Company, Constellation Brands, Craft Brew Alliance, Sapporo Breweries, Mahou San Miguel, Heineken N.V., and FIFCO USA. In 2019, those companies collectively produced an estimated 7.95 million barrels, a 2% decline from 2018.
A-B’s craft portfolio increased volumes 3%, to more than 2 million barrels. All but four of A-B’s 12 craft brands recorded volume growth in 2019. A-B’s two largest craft brands — Goose Island Beer Co. (-2%) and Shock Top (-24%) — as well as Blue Point (-2%) and Platform Beer Co. (-4%), which the company acquired in 2019, were all in decline.
Seattle-based Elysian Brewing Company continued its expansion (+11% to 245,000 barrels), as did Los Angeles Golden Road Brewing, which increased volumes 50%, and topped the 200,000-barrel mark for the first year, finishing 2019 at 240,000 barrels.
Craft Brew Alliance, which A-B will acquire pending regulatory approval, increased volumes 1%, to 761,000 barrels, driven by the Kona Brewing Co. brand.
Molson Coors’ craft brands collectively declined 5%, to 2.9 million barrels, as the company’s top two brands — Blue Moon (-3%) and Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company (-15%) — were both in the red.
Molson Coors other craft brands posted mixed results, with Saint Archer Brewing Company (+30%), Terrapin Beer Co. (+11%) and Hop Valley Brewing Company (+8%) in growth mode, and Revolver (-3%) in decline.
Heineken-owned Lagunitas Brewing Company increased volumes 3%, keeping the brand above the 1 million-barrel mark for the second consecutive year.
Michigan’s Founders Brewing Company, which is majority owned by Mahou San Miguel, posted modest 3% growth after years of double-digit growth. Founders closed out 2019 at 578,400 barrels. Mahou’s other U.S. craft brand, Colorado’s Avery Brewing Co., finished 2019 flat, at 54,732 barrels.
Constellation Brands, which offloaded San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing Company to upstart Kings & Convicts Brewing Co., didnt report production numbers for the brand in 2019, which had been steadily declining since peaking in 2016 at 430,917 barrels. Constellation’s other acquired craft brands — Florida’s Funky Buddha Brewery and Texas’ Four Corners — each grew 31% and 42%, respectively.
San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing, which was acquired by Japanese brewing company Sapporo Holdings in 2017, posted double-digit declines for the third consecutive year, dipping 25 percent, to 67,500 barrels, well below the company’s high water mark of 159,000 barrels in 2014.