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Monday, February 27, 2012

That's a Lot of Beer

I still defend the use of "craft brewery" as applied to Boston Beer (Sam Adams), but "micro" it is surely not:
Now, Boston Beer is tied with Pennsylvania-based D.G. Yuengling & Son as the largest American-owned brewer. Both companies shipped about 2.5 million barrels last year.
It's always hard to wrap your head around brewery size, but here are few benchmarks. When it closed down, Henry Weinhard was making about a million barrels a year. The largest ale brewery in Britain, Greene King, makes about 700,000 US barrels. Brasserie Dupont made 12,500 US barrels in 2011. Boston Beer is brewing something like one in five of every craft beer made, depending on whom you include (Yuengling, for example, is generally not included.) All the breweries in Oregon brewed just over a million barrels in 2010. Boston Beer accounts for over 1% of all beer sales in the US--and there are 1700 breweries.

There's no reason to think it couldn't get ten times that big in the next two decades. The idea that a craft brewery must always remain small and that the macros will always have dominance--it's time to give that one up. Craft brewing is big business.


  1. I've never understood this concept of why a brewery would be disqualified from be a craft brewery merely because they were successful selling a lot of their beer.

  2. But isn't there a point where the product becomes too big? It cannot be craft brewing because it is done under production-line qualities.

    That doesn't mean it cannot be a good or great product; I believe it's a good thing when a smaller business can grow due to their successes.

    But where's the tipping point, where you can't say-because of the dictates of scale-that it's a craft brew anymore?

  3. I noticed
    - Samuel Adams beers to be brewed outside U.S. for first time; Shepherd Neame said earlier this week that it will brew Samuel Adams Boston Lager under licence in the UK, for sale on draught from April....
    - New Belgium is looking to ope a 2nd brewery north of Asheville, NC; as has been announced by Sierra Nevada
    - 04 Boulder County's artisan beer breweries output increased >40% 2011 v. 2010

    As you note, 'micro' no longer applies to the upper tier of artisan/craft beer breweries. I promote the term 'artisan'.

  4. All you're really doing by saying "artisan" rather than "craft" is using an Italian word instead of a Germanic one.

  5. Makes no difference really. It's just marketing drivel. It's a classic marketing strategy when you're the little guy to market the chasm between yourself and the competition as a David and Goliath battle. Mr. Koch is a Boston Consulting Group alumnus. He knows what he's doing. The Brewers Association has a vested interest in not defining craft beer by volume produced so that they can maintain the illusion that there's a booming industry occurring in the US. I fear they're simply blowing bubbles as they distort the true view of the market. Why the mainstream press so easily and uncritically publishes their data, I don't know.

    Look at the BA's definition of craft beer, and you can see that the epithet holds very little meaning: "small, independent, and traditional." Small defined as < 6 million barrels produced. That's the entire production capacity of most nations! Independent defined as less than 25% owned by a non-craft brewer entity. The definition is circular, and besides that 25% ownership by a non-craft brewer entity, by definition, is not independent. Traditional is defined as all malt beer, or the use of adjuncts to "enhance rather than lighten flavor." However, we all well know that all malt beer is not traditional, and the judgement of whether an adjunct enhances or lightens flavors is completely subjective. So what is craft brewing besides not-AnheuserBuschCoorsMillerPabst

  6. On the unanswerable question of "craft," which is the question of authenticity, we will debate until the end of time. Every man his own definition, and never shall any exactly overlap.

    For me, the whole thing is focus on flavor rather than sales. All modern breweries are automated to the extent the cash flow allows. Show me a brewery where a team of workers hand cork their bottles and I'll show you a brewery that hasn't got the money to buy a bottling line. You can make sell-out beer in five barrel batches, and you can make exquisite beer in 500 barrel batches.

  7. Craft: To make with skill, artistry or precision.

    We could certainly argue that huge breweries like Sam Adams, AB and others are making beer with great skill and precision. However, there's very little artistry involved.

    Essentially, if you accept skill and precision alone as defining craft beer, you have to include virtually all modern breweries under the craft umbrella. Do you really want to do that?

    Frankly speaking, I think this would be a good time to kick back and enjoy a nice Black celebrate our collapsing language.

  8. @Barm
    You are correct, of course; but, for me, 'artisan' is 'fresh' and, as such, affords an opportunity to refine the definition of 'craft-authentic-artisan beer'. Further, for me, 'artisan' has more cachet.

    I notice a great deal of difference between the beers produced by 'artisan beer breweries / brewpubs' and the homogeneous, commoditized,industrial light lagers and 'faux-authenic-local champion' beers of INBev_AB / MillerCoors. Community involvement and market strategies also differ.

    The beers of MillerCoors' boutique breweries [AC Golden Brewing Co. and Sandlot Brewpub] and Blue Moon are mostly authentic / skillfully and precisely produced.

    @New Belgium's 2nd brewery
    I notice both the Philadelphia and the Asheville areas are under consideration as NBBC's 2nd site.

    ==now, back to 2011 income tax