Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Long live the new King of American Beer!

In the 1890s, there were over 4,300 2,300 breweries in the United States.

In 1978, just before the re-birth of craft beer, there were 41.

Now, in 2008, there's a continuing return to brewing glory with the count of active breweries at more than 1,400.

But this past Sunday morning only five breweries remained from that 1890s roster: Yuengling, F.X. Matt, Anchor Brewing, August Schell, Anheuser-Busch. [Read the comments for 5 more survivors, including High Falls, formerly known as Genesee, and Straub's.]

That list will soon be four since Anheuser-Busch has agreed to be purchased by Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate InBev.

And where are Coors, Miller, and Pabst? Coors is owned by MolsonCoors of Canada; Miller is owned by SABMiller of England; Pabst brews none of its own beers.

Anheuser-Busch, as it is now, accounts for 48% of the beers sold in the US.

  • Anheuser-Busch: 48%
  • Miller: 18%
  • Coors: 11%
  • Crown Imports (Corona, St. Pauli Girl): 5%
  • Heineken USA: 4%
  • Craft beers: 3.8%
The top ten beers sold in the US are:
  • Bud Light: 19.2%
  • Budweiser: 11.3%
  • Miller Lite: 8.4%
  • Coors Light: 7.9%
  • Natural Light: 4.2%
  • Corona Extra: 3.8%
  • Busch light: 2.9%
  • Busch: 2.8%
  • Heineken: 2.4%
  • Miller High Life: 2.3%
[Source Beer Marketer's Insights as cited by the Washington Post: Bud's Belgian Buyout.]

But ... the number one American-owned brewery, the new King of American Beer is...

Well, here's how Jay Brookston of Brookston Beer Bulletin put it:
Once the merger of the two companies is finalized, Anheuser-Busch InBev, will be a Belgian company. MillerCoors consists of MolsonCoors, managed from Canada, and SABMiller, which is either a South African or London-based company, depending on your point of view. That leaves Pabst, the fourth largest beermaker by volume, but they do not own a brewery, instead contracting to have all their beer made at Miller’s breweries. So in terms of actual brewers (that is companies that own and operate a brewery) and who are U.S. owned, the biggest one remaining will be Boston Beer, making Samuel Adams as the undisputed biggest American brewer. Way to go, Jim. It also means Yuengling, America’s oldest brewery, becomes number two and Sierra Nevada comes in third.
In 2007, Boston Beer produced (combining its own production and beers produced for it by other brewers) over 1.8 million barrels of beer. Yuengling produced (all at its own plants) 1.2 million barrels. A barrel, at 31 US gallons, yields about 13.7 cases of beer (24 12- ounce bottles). [Source: The Brewers Association.]

Interested in Anheuser-Busch InBev's plans for Budweiser? Jay Brookston has that inside scoop as well.


  1. In light of all this conversation about globeerization I thought I would pass on one of the Big Rock Brewery "Eddies" submissions. Every year our consumers produce beer commercials, this one is especially relevant today:


    Big Rock

  2. 4,300 breweries in the 1890's sure sounds high. Most sources ("100 Years of Brewing", "Dictionary of the History of American Brewing...", "Register of US Breweries")tho' the vary, put the figure at slightly over 1900.

    Also, I think you could add Straub to the survivors. And arguments could be made for Cold Spring, Stevens Point, Minhas and High Falls, which despite ownership changes and name changes can all be traced directly back to breweries of the pre-20th century era.

  3. Aaargh! You are correct. I meant to write 2,300 breweries in the 1890s (to catch the creation of Anchor), a number which was even a tad higher in the 1870s. Of course the volume of beer was increasing even as the actual outlets decreased. I'll stand by my other numbers. Thanks for the other breweries. I'm surprised Brother Bryson didn't get on me for omitting Straub's! So that gets us to 9 still surviving?


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