Pennsylvania-based Yuengling has been ranked as the largest American craft brewery for the second consecutive year in 2015, a list that also hints at turmoil due to a string of recent takeovers by Big Brewers.
The craft beer industry is on a hot streak, with volume increasing 13% in 2015 as craft breweries outperform the broader, stagnant category with their more flavorful offerings and rapid experimentation. That success has led to many new small businesses launching their own beer ventures – there were 620 new brewery openings, according to industry group the Brewers Association.
Here’s the Brewers Association’s top 10 list for 2015:
- D.G. Yuengling and Son (Pennsylvania)
- Boston Beer (Massachusetts)
- Sierra Nevada Brewing (California)
- New Belgium Brewing (Colorado)
- Gambrinus (Texas)
- Lagunitas Brewing (California)
- Bell’s Brewery (Michigan)
- Deschutes Brewery (Oregon)
- Minhas Craft Brewery (Wisconsin)
- Stone Brewing (California)
Among the top 500 producing states, California leads the list with 12 entries, followed by Colorado with five. The biggest gainers were Ballast Point (up 20 spots from 2014), Green Flash (climbed 7), and 21st Amendment (up 6). Shipyard, Harpoon and Bear Republic were the biggest decliners – all falling by as much as five spots apiece.
Big swings in volume can occur if a brewery recently expanded production, or if supply was too constrained to meet demand. Ballast Point, for example, recently expanded production capacity to meet scorching demand.
Importantly, the list hints at some upheaval tied to mergers from Big Brewers.
Four brewers in the top 50 in 2015 had asterisks next to their name to signify their results were pro-rated in 2015. Due to recent deals, the brewers soon will no longer qualify as a “craft brewer” as defined by the Brewers Association. Those four brewers are Lagunitas Brewing (#6), which sold a 50% stake to Heineken; Ballast Point (#11) fully sold to Constellation Brands; and Breckenridge Brewery (#47) and Four Peaks Brewing (#49) – each completely controlled by Anheuser-Busch InBev (bud). AB InBev has been particularly aggressive in craft beer M&A in recent years.
Those deals “show there is a lot of change among regional craft breweries at the moment,” Bart Watson, chief economist of Brewers Association told Fortune. “2016 could be similar.”
To be a craft brewer, less than 25% of the brewery can be owned or controlled by a big alcohol beverage competitor. The brewery must also report production of 6 million barrels of beer or less. Until recently, Yuengling had also been excluded from the list because the beer’s recipes didn’t meet the BA’s definition. A change in the ingredients requirement back in March 2014 allowed the Pennsylvania brewer to be added to the list for the first time in 2015.
The full list can be seen here.