Unlike rankings that rate breweries by strength of product, a recently published list compiled by the Brewers Association outlines the top 50 U.S. craft brewing companies by sales as well as the top 50 overall. You won't see some notable names like Goose Island, Magic Hat, Pyramid, Redhook, Kona or Widmer Brothers. This isn't because they're not good, it's because they're owned by companies like Anheuser-Busch, Craft Brew Alliance and North American Breweries, and are included under their parent company’s sales rank. With so many brewery rankings lists out there, what sets the Brewers Association apart? They rank by progress.
A major winner was San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing Company, climbing the craft beer sales chart a remarkable 17 places from last year and cracking the top 50 overall list for the first time. Ballast Point nearly doubled their production in the last year, and with refreshed packaging and a new canning line, their brews have become more accessible across the country. This is just the beginning of a major leap forward for the brewery which is set to begin production at a 107,000-square-foot brewery this summer capable of producing an astounding 350,000 barrels – that’s about three and a half times the current output at their main brewery at Scripps Ranch.
Both the Craft Brewers and the Overall Brewers sales lists include several new brands that have grown exponentially in the last year, like Duvel Moortgat USA which recently fortified their lineup with Kansas City, MO's Boulevard Brewing — number 12 last year. Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery also cracked the top 50 at number 43, due to increased production and distribution all the way across the pond to England. Gordon Biersch Brewing Company and 21st Amendment Brewery also made the craft brewery list for the first time as 49th and 50th places, respectively.
It might seem like the top 50 overall brewing companies hasn’t changed much – in fact, the top 10 brewing companies stood still in their rankings from last year. That's not really much of a surprise when you consider the huge difference in size between craft breweries, which account for just 15.6 million barrels total, and non-craft breweries, up to nearly 200 million barrels a year. Total craft beer sales did rise significantly by 2 million total barrels, but it’s important to note that Sam Adams at 1.8 million barrels, Sierra Nevada at over 850,000 barrels and New Belgium at nearly 750,000 make up a quarter of the total output.
Where you’re really seeing rank-climbing is in smaller breweries pushing sales in innovative ways, like Founders Brewing Company (340,000 barrels per year) and Firestone Walker, (151,000 barrels), both up six spots overall after a year spent intensively rebranding and canning, all while expanding their barrel-aging programs. If there’s one positive trend that sticks out among almost all the breweries which experienced major growth, it’s the addition of canning lines, which allow beer to stay fresher longer and travel further than ever before. Cans aren’t just awesome (you know we love them), they're having a positive impact on breweries' sales.
Here are the top 10, and you can click through to the Brewers Association site for the full lineup:
- Boston Beer Co.
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
- New Belgium Brewing Co.
- Lagunitas Brewing Co.
- Deschutes Brewing Co.
- Bell's Brewery, Inc.
- Duvel Moortgat USA
- Brooklyn Brewery
- Stone Brewing Co.
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