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BA Top 50 Reveals Pandemic Challenges, But Resilience Too; About 12 Mil Bbls, -9-10%

Annual release of Brewers Assn's top 50 craft brewing companies by volume largely highlights the Covid-era biz impacts now quite familiar to followers of US craft beer. Draft-heavy brewers hamstrung, while cos with existing "packaging and distribution capacity were best positioned to take advantage of the boom in off-premise sales and weather market uncertainty," BA economist Bart Watson explained in statement. Performance varied considerably by geography and biz model, he reminded. As always, BA list built with beer-only numbers, excluding volume in other bevs like hard seltzers and beyond, as reported to org by members. In some cases, that creates "a little bit of a disconnect" with total company numbers, Bart told Craft Brew News, as some brewers did much better overall with non-beer volume included. 

Importantly, more than in other years, Bart thinks it'll take some time "to put this year in more context." Rank changes maybe not as meaningful this time around, he thinks, as they're often more indicative of circumstances beyond a brewer's control than of its market performance. At same time, trends put up by top-50 brewers are "a little bit more indicative of the small brewer experience" than in some past yrs, Bart told us. Previously, for instance, larger craft brewers posted softer trends than the thousands of smaller, fast-growing players. But this time, "the numbers are more similar," he shared, suggesting "the importance of the on premise" is a key trait shared by the largest and smallest BA-defined craft brewers.

Top 50 Shipped About 12 Mil Bbls, Down 9-10% from 2019 List  All told, BA's top 50 craft brewers sold in neighborhood of 12 mil bbls in 2020, we estimate. (Recall, we published shipments for players over 100K bbls in Feb 12 issue of CBN.) List topped once again by Yuengling, down 8% to about 2.3 mil bbls, Boston Beer's beer volume (Sam Adams plus Dogfish Head, around 1.5 mil bbls, we estimate) and Sierra Nevada, up solidly to 1.1 mil bbls. But New Belgium no longer meets BA def'n after sale to Kirin. It grew about 100K bbls to near 950K. So BA data doesn't benefit from that big gain. Doing apples-to-apples comparison suggests BA's 2020 top-50 shipped about 9-10% less than the 2019 top-50 (without NBB). That's 1.2-1.3 mil bbls shaved off the top. 

Big Jumps by Just a Few in Top Half; Bunch of Newbies and Rank Changes in Bottom Half  Removal of NBB and consolidation of DFH with Boston Beer means plenty of BA craft players below the top-3 mostly up 1-3 rankings, such as #4 Duvel Moortgat (including Firestone Walker, Boulevard and Ommegang) and #5 Gambrinus (Shiner, Trumer), the only 2 other players over a half-mil bbls in 2020. CANarchy, Bell's and ABV all 400-500K bbls, Stone just below 350K and Deschutes at #10 with 235K bbls, recall. Only 1 top-25 BA craft brewer fell back in rankings, Brooklyn back 2 to #14 due to sizeable decline. But Stevens Pt up 4 ranks to #16 on BA list, just above Odell (129K bbls). Minhas right behind that, holding at #18, while Abita jumped 5 ranks to #19 and Troegs (112K bbls) leapt 7 ranks to #20. (Note some contract volume likely included in estimates for both Stevens Pt and Minhas.)

Three Floyds also took a 7-rank leap to #24, finishing yr just below 100K bbls, we estimate, one spot ahead of Rhinegeist (97K bbls). Gordon Biersch and Georgetown (each +5 rankings) almost caught up to Alaskan (-4). Kings & Convicts made its debut on BA Top 50 at #30. But that's almost 20 spots below the #11 ranking Ballast Pt achieved based on its 2015 performance. K&C finished a bit under 90K bbls, looks like, just behind Allagash on BA list. Long Trail just behind that at #31, up 6 rankings, suggesting it held close to flat (88K bbls in 2019). Brewers like Narragansett (87K bbls last yr), 21st Amendment, Surly, Rogue and Lost Coast each pushed back a few rankings on BA list, all finished between #32-38 at roughly 75-85K bbls. Bottom-10 on BA list features plenty of new names. BrewDog (#41), Toppling Goliath (#42), Fremont (#45), Creature Comforts, Montauk and New Holland (#48-50) all debuted on BA top-50. Note both Montauk and New Holland finished 2020 around 50K bbls, they told us separately (tho that Montauk figure includes more than a few thousand bbls of hard seltzer, see Mar 15 issue).  

Notable Absences  Those 6 players (plus K&C) replaced NBB, DFH and 5 smaller players: Karl Strauss, Wachusett, Full Sail, Bear Republic and North Coast. Suggests dramatic drop for Karl Strauss, which shipped 85K bbls in 2019. But again, that tracks those uncontrollable challenges brought on by pandemic, as Bart suggested. Karl's biz built on SoCal brewpubs that simply couldn't operate anywhere close to normally for vast majority of 2020. Also reflects exclusion of Full Sail's pivot to KYLA hard kombucha, a big, fast-growing piece of that co's biz. Note too that BA also released its list of top-50 overall brewing cos in 2020. That list perhaps even more impacted by BA's exclusion of non-beer bevs, FMBs, hard seltzer, cider, etc. As such, Boston Beer ranked #9, behind FIFCO USA (2.3 mil bbls in 2020). And Mike's Hard Lemonade Co not on the list at all. But include seltzer and other FMBs and Mike's was #4 supplier in US last yr, up 4.11 mil bbls to 9.25 mil. And Boston was #5 in US overall by our count, +2 mil bbls to almost 7.4 mil. Addition of kombucha, wine and spirits by growing number of brewers only makes the counting that much more challenging. 

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2021
  • Volume: 12
  • Issue #: 29
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 Craft Update 2021

By Beer Marketer’s Insights
Presented by Chris Shepard & David Steinman,
the Editors of Craft Brew News
March 3, 2021 - Part 1
April 28, 2021 - Part 2
1pm Eastern Time
90-minutes including Q&A

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