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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Largest American Breweries in Context

Then annual Brewers Association list of the largest breweries is out, and based on a bit of the behind-the-scenes email I'm getting, breweries take it pretty seriously. But there a few things you should know in interpreting this list. The most important is that a list is about the crudest measure we could have. The difference separating the first and second breweries is larger than the difference separating #2 and #50 (on both craft and non-craft lists). Because the barrel counts are never divulged, I had to do a bit of spitballing for the following chart, but it should give you a sense of things:

Put another way, the difference between 41 and 42 is on the order of a few thousand barrels; the difference between 1 and 2 is hundreds of thousands.

Next, the really interesting thing about lists is movement, and for that you should check out Jay Brooks, who has put together his annual list of breweries and their movement. He didn't to it for craft breweries, though, so here's your Oregon movers:

5. Deschutes (no movement)
20. Full Sail (down 2 from 18)
25. Rogue (no movement)
32. Ninkasi (up 18 from 50)

BridgePort was in last year's list but axed this year, and Widmer was axed a couple years ago--both owing to definitions about ownership. You also shouldn't jump to the conclusion that a fall in position equals a fall in barrelage--it may mean a brewery like Full Sail just didn't grow as fast as others.


  1. Jeff - hoping you could shed some light. Even if there were a massive backlash against goose for its sale, which I did not perceive there was here in the Midwest at least, or some major production hiccups, it still seems nearly impossible that they would have dipped all the way from #18 to #48, as brooks' list shows. Do you have any specific numbers and/or a good explanation as to how that happened?

  2. One of the footnotes says Goose Island was sold to Anheuser-Busch in 2011. So perhaps the portion of the year prior to the sale is attributed to Goose Island and after the sale to Anheuser-Busch?

  3. I'm amazed at how many of the top producing craft breweries beers still can't generally be found in Portland. Distribution is an interesting thing.

  4. @Tracy
    Not to be a jerk, but which one's are you talking about? Like Matt Brewing, Bell's, Harpoon, Boulevard?
    I don't see that as a bad thing. From a freshness and an environmental standpoint, is it really necessary to get those beers in PDX?


  5. Was BridgePort "axed" or did the Brewers Association simply combine all of the Gambrinus brands/breweries into one listing?

    Last year, the B.A. listed "Spoetzl" at #4 (even tho' their flagship, Shiner Bock, is an adjunct beer) and BridgePort at #34 on the "Craft" list. This year, it's just "Gambrinus" at #4. Probably the total barrelage for that includes Bridgeport, Spoetzl and Trumer.

  6. I don't have any insight into Goose Island--but that is strange.

    I'm with Tracy about wishing we could get distribution from some of the more famous East Coast and Midwest breweries here. I think the issue is that most of those breweries are already brewing at capacity, and it doesn't make sense to take up the hassle of entering new markets when you're already selling all the beer you can brew.