The final numbers are in. After announcing the top 50 craft breweries in March, the Brewers Association today released its 2014 sales figures, painting a much more definitive picture of last year’s winners and losers.
But first, some quick perspective on the influence this roster has on the overall landscape: Of the total nation wide output of more than 22 million craft barrels, 68 percent (or more than 15 million barrels) came from the top 50. Even of that volume, more than 8 million barrels came from the top five players, D.G. Yuengling & Son, Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, and Gambrinus.
Though the industry at large enjoyed growth – and finally captured a double-digit volume share of the total U.S. beer market – not all moved in the same direction, for better and worse.
Founders Brewing and Ballast Point Brewing both increased production by 74 percent in 2014, solidifying their roles as the two fastest growing companies among the top 50 craft players. Founders (17) sold 193,000 barrels, according to the BA, while Ballast Point (31) wrapped up the year at 123,435 barrels.
While those two companies shared the distinction as the fastest growing, they were hardly the only players that boasted big gains.
Lagunitas Brewing (6) kept up its torrid pace of growth, boosting sales 50 percent on a significant base, the highest rate in the top 10. Spearheaded by its IPA, one of the most venerable brands of craft’s most bankable style, the company produced 601,420 barrels in 2014.
Stone Brewing (9) and Bell’s Brewery (8) were the second and third fastest growing companies in the top 10, behind Lagunitas, increasing production 28 percent (to 318,926 barrels) and 35 percent (to 287,075 barrels) respectively.
Meanwhile, in the bottom half of the top 50, Troegs Brewing (45) increased production 25 percent, selling 69,000 barrels. Uinta Brewing (39), which in August sold a minority stake to private equity firm Riverside Company, finished the year having produced 77,168 barrels, an increase of 31 percent over the year prior.
Not all craft breweries in the top 50 posted impressive gains, however. A number of companies actually saw sales decrease, while others stagnated.
Minhas Craft Brewery (10), included on this list for the first time since the BA tweaked its craft brewer definition, saw production dip 4 percent, rounding out the year at 265,374 barrels. It should be noted, however, that Minhas is primarily a producer of private label and contract offerings, which can fluctuate more dramatically than owned brands.
The most precipitous drop was had by Shipyard Brewing (25), which saw production decrease 12 percent. The company, which also owns and operates Sea Dog Brewing, produced 146,869 barrels in 2014.
At 33, Full Sail Brewing, whose employees voted to sell a controlling interest of the company to Encore Consumer Capital, a private equity firm, in March, was one of just two breweries that reported no increase in production (the other was August Schell Brewing). Full Sail closed out the year at 115,000 barrels.
Also of note: the newly reported numbers offer a glimpse at the new barrier for entry in the top 50 club. Breckenridge Brewery, which held the last spot on the list, produced 64,371 barrels in 2014. In 2011, Four Peaks Brewing was ranked 50th on the list after making 36,000 barrels.