For the second consecutive year, production at half of the craft beer industry’s top 50 companies didn’t grow, according to new data released by trade group the Brewers Association.
The organization, which published 2017 production figures for thousands of U.S. breweries in the latest issue of ‘The New Brewer,’ noted that 24 of the top 50 BA-defined regional craft brewing companies — those producing between 15,000 and six million barrels of beer annually — either declined or remained flat in 2017.
Vermont’s Long Trail Brewing and Massachusetts-headquartered Boston Beer Company experienced the most notable declines last year. Long Trail production fell a staggering 24 percent, to 100,000 barrels, while Boston Beer Company — which also makes a variety of tea, cider and hard seltzer products — saw its beer production dip 14 percent, to two million barrels, according to the BA.
Meanwhile, Louisiana’s Abita Brewing, Minnesota’s August Schell Brewing and California’s Green Flash Brewing each declined 10 percent.
Other noteworthy companies that experienced declines last year included Sierra Nevada (down 8 percent), Deschutes Brewery (down 9 percent), Ninkasi Brewing (down 8 percent), Rogue Ales & Spirits (down 7 percent) and Full Sail Brewing (down 9 percent).
Nevertheless, about two dozen of the country’s largest craft beer companies managed to grow, despite facing a variety of challenges, including access to market and increased competition from large and small breweries.
Among top 50 producers, Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist Brewing posted the most robust growth in 2017, up 53 percent, to 86,242 barrels.
Massachusetts’ Wachusett Brewing, which hired former Heineken CMO Christian McMahan as its new president last June, also grew 26 percent last year.
Other double-digit growers included Three Floyds Brewing (up 23 percent), Surly Brewing (up 19 percent), Saint Arnold Brewing (up 19 percent), Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (up 18 percent), Stone Brewing (up 15 percent), Troegs Brewing (up 14 percent), Revolution Brewing (up 14 percent) and Bell’s Brewery (up 10 percent).
Firestone Walker, which is part of Duvel Moortgat USA, also grew 12 percent, according to the BA.
Meanwhile, New York’s Southern Tier Brewing, which, together with Victory Brewing Company, makes up Artisanal Brewing Ventures, rebounded in 2017 with 14 percent growth after production dipped 11 percent the prior year.
Florida’s Cigar City Brewing, which is part of Canarchy Craft Brewery Collective — the Fireman Capital Partners-backed consortium of beer companies, including Oskar Blues, Perrin Brewing and Utah Brewers Cooperative – also grew 41 percent, to more than 92,000 barrels. On its own, Cigar City is ranked as the 39th largest craft brewing company in the U.S.
The BA also counted production from those craft beer companies owned by larger entities, including Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and Constellation Brands.
According to the trade group, the only A-B-owned craft brewery to decline in 2017 was Goose Island. Sales for that brand dipped 1 percent. A-B’s fastest growing craft brand, according to BA estimates, was Elysian Brewing, which saw production increase 111 percent. Wicked Weed Brewing also grew 82 percent in 2017.
All of MillerCoors’ recently acquired craft brands – Saint Archer, Hop Valley, Revolver Brewing and Terrapin – posted positive figures in 2017. Saint Archer grew 62 percent, while Revolver grew 53 percent, according to the BA. Terrapin and Hop Valley grew 34 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
Production at San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing, which was purchased by Constellation Brands for $1 billion in 2015, declined 13 percent, according to the BA.
In total, production of large, non-BA-defined craft brands – including those owned by North American Breweries (Magic Hat, Pyramid), Heineken (Lagunitas), Mahou San Miguel (Founders Brewing), Sapporo (Anchors Brewing, Sapporo USA), Craft Brew Alliance (Kona, Redhook, Widmer Brothers, Omission) and United Breweries (Olde Saratoga, Mendocino Brewing) – grew 4 percent, to nearly 8.5 million barrels.
The entire craft beer category, as defined by the BA, grew 5 percent, to 25.3 million barrels in 2017.