Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Top 50 U.S. 'Craft' Breweries

The Brewers Association (BA) —the not-for-profit trade group that tabulates production statistics for U.S. breweries— has released its annual list of the top 50 'craft breweries' and the top 50 overall brewing companies. The rankings are based on 2011 beer sales volume.

Of the top 50 overall brewing companies, thirty-six are 'craft breweries,' which the BA defines as:

Small, independent, and traditional.

Small: Annual production of beer less than 6 million barrels. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition.

Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.

Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewer's brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

This is a fungible, and somewhat capricious definition, which the BA has changed a couple of times just in the past dozen years.

One local brewery (local to this blogger is Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) continues its presence in the Top 50: Flying Dog, of Frederick, Maryland, at the 26th spot, and 38th largest brewery overall. In 2010, the brewery produced 60,827 barrels.

The second largest production brewery in Maryland, Heavy Seas, of Baltimore, increased its 2011 volume 50% above that of 2010 to approximately 30,000 barrels. Even so, it failed to crack the Top 50 of craft breweries. There are no Virginia or Washington, D.C. breweries in the top 50.

The BA releases the actual sales volume numbers in May during its Craft Brewers Conference. This year the conference is in San Diego. Next year, it's here in Washington, D.C.

Rankings first; analysis later!

1. Boston Beer Company
Boston, Massachusetts.

2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
Chico California.

3. New Belgium Brewing Company
Fort Collins, Colorado.

4. The Gambrinus Company
San Antonio, Texas.

5. Deschutes Brewery
Bend, Oregon.

6. Matt Brewing Company
Utica, New York.

7. Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Galesburg, Michigan.

8. Harpoon Brewery
Boston, Massachusetts.

9. Lagunitas Brewing Company
Petaluma, California.

10. Boulevard Brewing Company
Kansas City, Missouri.

11. Stone Brewing Company
Escondido, California.

12. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Milton, Delaware.

13. Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn, New York.

14. Alaskan Brewing & Bottling Company
Juneau, Alaska.

15. Long Trail Brewing Company
Burlington, Vermont.

16. Shipyard Brewing Company
Portland, Maine.

17. Abita Brewing Company
Abita Springs, Louisiana.

18. Great Lakes Brewing Company
Cleveland, Ohio.

19. New Glarus Brewing Company
New Glarus, Wisconsin.

20. Full Sail Brewing Company
Hood River, Oregon.

21. Summit Brewing Company
St. Paul, Minnesota.

22. Anchor Brewing Company
San Francisco, California.

23. Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Paso Robles, California.

24. Sweetwater Brewing Company
Atlanta, Georgia.

25. Rogue Ales Brewery
Newport, Oregon.

26. Flying Dog Brewery
Frederick, Maryland.

27. Victory Brewing Company
Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

28. CraftWorks Breweries & Restaurants
Chattanooga, Tennessee.

29. Oskar Blues Brewery
Longmont, Colorado.

30. Odell Brewing Company
Fort Collins, Colorado.

31. Stevens Point Brewery Company
Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

32. Ninkasi Brewing Company
Eugene, Oregon.

33. BJ's Chicago Pizza & Brewery, Inc.
Huntington Beach, California.

34. Blue Point Brewing Company
Patchogue, New York.

35. Bear Republic Brewing Company
Cloverdale, California.

36. Lost Coast Brewery Cafe
Eureka, California.

37. Big Sky Brewing Company
Missoula, Montana.

38. North Coast Brewing Company Inc.
Fort Bragg, California.

39. Saint Louis Brewery, Inc./Schlafly Bottleworks
St. Louis, Missouri.

40. Gordon Biersch Brewing Company
San Jose, California.

41. Breckenridge Brewery
Denver, Colorado.

42. Founders Brewing Company
Grand Rapids, Michigan.

43. Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Houston, Texas.

44. Karl Strauss Brewing Company
San Diego, California.

45. Real Ale Brewing Company
Blanco, Texas.

46. Mac and Jack's Brewery Inc.
Redmond, Washington.

47. Smuttynose Brewing Company
Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

48. Utah Brewers Cooperative
Salt Lake City, Utah.

49. Left Hand Brewing Company
Longmont, Colorado.

50. (tie) Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Boonville, California.

50. (tie) Four Peaks Brewing Company
Tempe, Arizona.

The BA simultaneously announces the list of the Top 50 overall brewing companies in the U.S. craft or otherwise, again, by sales volume (and without the actual numbers). In that ranking, Yuengling and Boston Beer (maker of Sam Adams) come in 4th and 5th. (The BA does not acknowledge Yuengling —the oldest continuously operated, American-owned brewery in the U.S., and still family-owned— as a craft brewery.) Sierra Nevada and New Belgium are 6th and 7th. Overall No.1 is Belgian-owned Anheuser-Busch InBev.


  • A US barrel is 31 gallons, the equivalent of 13.7 cases of 24 12-ounce beers.
  • Go to the Brewers Association website for more information.

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