Brewers Association Unveils 2018 Rankings of Top US Brewing Companies

The Brewers Association today released its annual rankings of the top U.S. beer companies based on projected 2018 sales volume.

Amongst BA-defined small and independent craft brewing companies – those businesses that make fewer than 6 million barrels of beer annually and are less than 25 percent owned by a non-craft brewer – Pennsylvania’s D.G. Yuengling & Son once again secured the top spot as the largest producer of craft beer in the U.S.

Boston Beer Company and Sierra Nevada Brewing ranked second and third, respectively, and the top seven-ranked breweries remained unchanged versus last year.

The Canarchy Craft Brewery Collective – which consists of Oskar Blues, Cigar City Brewing, Perrin Brewing, Utah Brewers Cooperative, Deep Ellum Brewing, and Three Weavers Brewing – moved up one spot, to eighth, while Stone Brewing fell one spot, to ninth.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery held onto its 10th place ranking. In total, 16 of the top 50 craft breweries maintained their positions, while another six companies shifted ahead one place.

As in previous years, there were a few standout companies that made significant gains.

Cincinnati’s Rhinegeist made the biggest leap forward last year, moving up an eye-catching 11 places (to 28th) from its ranking as the 39th largest craft brewery in the country in 2017, according to statistics published in the May/June issue of the BA’s New Brewer magazine.

“This is the most competitive market that we have ever seen,” Rhinegeist co-founder Bryant Goulding told Brewbound. “It certainly gives us conviction that our double down in our backyard, our self-distribution and our regional awareness and focus is critical.”

According to Goulding, Rhinegeist did not open any new territories last year, and it grew production from 86,242 barrels in 2017 to 100,302 barrels in 2018.

Meanwhile, San Diego’s Modern Times Beer cracked the top 50 list for the first time, moving up 11 places, from 56th in 2017 to 45th in 2018.

Seattle’s Georgetown Brewing Company also officially moved into the top 50 for the first time with a net rank improvement of nine positions (from 51st in 2017 to 41st in 2018).

Editor’s Note: Avery Brewing, which sold a 30 percent stake to Mahou San Miguel and is no longer a BA-defined craft brewer, was ranked as the 50th largest craft brewing company in 2017. The company was omitted from our comparison of 2017 and 2018 rankings.

Two other companies – Indiana’s 3 Floyds Brewing and Massachusetts’ Wachusett Brewing Company — also improved their positions by six places.

3 Floyds went from 45th on the 2017 list, to 39th on the 2018 list, while Wachusett moved from 49th to 43rd place.

“It was another year of growth for the Wachusett brand,” brewery president Christian McMahan told Brewbound, noting that the brewery grew from 64,000 barrels in 2017 to 69,000 barrels in 2018.

“As a legacy craft beer maker in New England, it’s great to have the core part of your portfolio growing, including our flagship Blueberry ale,” he added. “Our innovation is a build-on to core volume, and not making up for declines, which is an amazing story to be telling.”

Among top 50 producers, 15 companies lost ground, with Oregon’s Full Sail Brewing falling the farthest, from 29th in 2017 to 44th in 2018.

Elsewhere, California’s Bear Republic Brewing also dropped seven places, while Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing and Utah’s Uinta each dropped six spots.

For their parts, Maryland’s Flying Dog and Oregon’s Rogue Ales also took steps backward, falling five places and four places, respectively.

It’s worth noting that the BA’s top 50 “U.S. craft brewing companies” list does not include some notable brewing ventures that many would consider producers of “craft beer.”

Michigan’s Founders Brewing, which sold a 30 percent stake to Mahou San Miguel in 2014, was excluded from the “craft brewing” list because of its ownership structure. It did, however, rank as the 14th largest overall beer company in the U.S. in 2018, according to the BA.

Similarly, Oregon’s Craft Brew Alliance – which owns the Kona, Widmer Brothers, Redhook, Omission, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Wynwood Brewing, and Cisco Brewers beer labels – is 31.3 percent owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. The company produced more than 719,000 barrels in 2018, according to an SEC filing, and was ranked as the 12th largest overall brewing company in the U.S. by the BA.

For the second year in a row, San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing was absent from the “U.S. craft brewing companies” list as a result of its $85 million sale to Sapporo Holdings in 2017. It was, however, ranked 27th on the BA’s top 50 overall brewing companies list, ahead of Harpoon Brewery, which ranked as 18th on the BA’s top 50 U.S. craft brewing companies list.

Finally, San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing, which was ranked as the 43rd largest craft brewing company in 2017, fell out of the top 50. The company encountered significant financial trouble last year and was forced to close two production facilities, lay off 76 employees and pull distribution from 42 states.

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