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Top 10 American craft breweries

The US is the home of the craft beer movement, which is increasingly sweeping the market previously monopolised by global brands. But which breweries are leading the charge?


In 2015, American craft brewers produced 24.5 million barrels, and saw a 13% rise in volume and a 16% increase in retail dollar value. Retail dollar value was estimated at $22.3 billion, representing 21% market share.

The Brewers Association – the trade group representing small and independent craft brewers – has released its annual lists of the top brewing companies in the US, based on beer sales volume.

Of the top 50 overall brewing companies, 43 were craft brewing companies*, showing the growing dominance of the movement.

“The top U.S. brewers continue to drive demand, growth, innovation and exponential interest in beers from small and independent brewers,” says Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association.

“With a historic record number of breweries in U.S., the top brewers continue to open new markets and expose beer drinkers to a variety of fuller-flavoured styles and offerings.”

But what about the craft breweries themselves? Which independent producers can lay claim to being among the biggest in the country, and by extension, among the biggest in the world?

Using the BA figures we have compiled a list of the ten biggest American craft brewers.

Click through to find out if your favourite brewer made it….

*Figure based on companies that met craft brewer definition for all or part of 2015. An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional. Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales).
Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
Traditional: A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavour derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

10. Stone Brewing Co

Location: Escondido, California
Opened: 1996
Key figures: Greg Koch (Chief Executive)
Steve Wagner (President & Brewmaster)
2015 production: 325,645 barrels

In the space of just 20 years, Stone Brewing Company has transformed from a small microbrewery into the tenth biggest craft brewer in the US, employing over 1,000 people.

The brewery makes a big point of the fact that it has achieved this growth without ever paying for advertising in any print or broadcast media (social media promotions are probably not included in this carefully worded boast!) and its philanthropic work in the local community.

It has just opened a second brewery in Richmond, Virginia on America’s East Coast.

Its beers can be found in several international markets.

9. Minhas Craft Brewery

Location: Monroe, Wisconsin, US
Opened: 1845 (formerly Joseph Huber Brewing Company)
Owners: Ravinder Minhas and Manjit Minhas
2015 production: Undisclosed

Minhas Craft Brewery opened in 1845 as the Monroe Brewing Company, making it the second oldest brewery in the country.

It has changed hands ten times in its long history, with the most recent owners Ravinder and Manjit Minhas (the latter starring on America’s version of Dragon’s Den) renaming it after their family name.

They produce a variety of 90 beers, spirits, liqueurs and wines. Its products are shipped across Canada, the US and 16 other countries worldwide including Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, the UK, Finland, Guam, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Panama and Trinidad.

8. Deschutes Brewery

Location: Bend, Oregon
Opened: 1988
Founder and president: Gary Fish
2015 production: Undisclosed

Deschutes opened as a small brew pub in 1988, but has gone on to expand rapidly, operating a 105,000 barrel-per-annum brewery and two brew houses.

In March 2016 Deschutes announced that it would build an East Coast production facility in Roanoke, Virginia.

Deschutes Brewery donates $1 per barrel sold to local and national charities and participating fundraisers through its cross-departmental community involvement committee.

7. Bell’s Brewery, Inc

Location: Galesburg, Michigan (brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan)
Opened: 1983
Founder and president: Larry Bell
2014 production (latest available figure): 325,000 barrels

Founded by Larry Bell as a home brewing supply shop in 1983, Bell’s Brewery, Inc. sold its first commercial beer in September 1985.

Originally self-distributed, Larry and his staff of nine employees bottled and delivered all of the beer to market for the company’s first four years.

By 1989, Bell’s was shipping more than 500 barrels annually and assigned its first wholesaler to further establish itself across the state of Michigan.

Beers are now brewed on a 50-barrel system and a newer 200-barrel system with a total annual capacity of more than 500,000 barrels. Bell’s brews more than 20 beers for distribution.

In 2014, a canning line and twelve 800-barrel fermenters were added.

The Bell’s Bio-Energy Building also came online in December 2014 to treat all process wastewater.

6. Lagunitas Brewing Co

Location: Petaluma, California
Opened: 1993
Founder and president: Tony Magee
2014 production (latest available figure): 640,000 barrels

Lagunitas was founded in 1993 by Tony Magee in Lagunitas, California and moved a year later to nearby Petaluma, California when they quickly outgrew their original rural West Marin location.

Since the mid-2000s, Lagunitas has been one of the fastest-growing craft breweries in the United States, increasing from 27,000 barrels in 2004 to 106,000 barrels in 2010.

It now has a second brewery in Chicago and there are plans to open a third in Azusa, California in 2017.

This will be the final time that Lagunitas will be appearing on a round-up such as this, after founder Tony Magee signed off on a deal to sell half of the brewery to Heineken in September 2015.

5. Gambrinus Brewing Co

Location: San Antonio, Texas (head brewery in Shiner, Texas)
Founded: 1986
Carlos Alvarez
2015 production: Undisclosed

The Gambrinus Company is located in San Antonio, Texas. Gambrinus is best-known as the owner and brewer of Shiner Beers, which are brewed at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas.

The Spoetzl Brewery is the oldest independent brewery in Texas and has been brewing beer since 1909 after being founded by German and Czech immigrants.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the brewery’s Shiner Premium Beer and Shiner Bock accounted for less than 1% of the Texas beer market.

In 1983, Spoetzl produced 60,000 barrels of beer; in 1990, only 36,000. Sales improved after Carlos Alvarez of San Antonio acquired the brewery in 1989: Production grew to 100,000 barrels in 1994, and over the next ten years, production nearly tripled.

4. New Belgium Brewing Co

Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
Founded: 1991
Founders: Jeff Lebesch, Kim Jordan
2015 production: Undisclosed

New Belgium, whose best known beer is Fat Tire, has its main brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado.

In 2013, New Belgium had some 480 employees and more than $180 million in sales. It has had an employee stock ownership plan since 2000 and in January 2013 became 100% employee-owned.

3. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co

Location: Chico, California
Founded: 1980
Owner: Ken Grossman
2015 production (latest figures):

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was founded in 1979, with founders Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi expanding their homebrewing hobby into a brewery in Chico, California.

The first batch brewed on premises was its Pale Ale in November 1980. The following year, the brewery introduced Celebration, an IPA, which it continues to release as a winter seasonal. The company sold 950 barrels of beer in its first year, and double that amount in the second.

The company’s first employee was Steve Harrison, who was put in charge of marketing and sales. The head brewer is Steve Dresler, who has been with the brewery since 1983, when its output was 25 to 30 barrels per week.

By 1987, the brewery was distributing to seven states and production had reached 12,000 barrels per year.

The brewery employed about 450 people in 2011.

In January 2012, Sierra Nevada announced it will build a second brewing facility with an attached restaurant in Mills River, North Carolina. It opened in early 2014.

Sierra Nevada is the largest buyer of organic hops in the United States.

2. Boston Beer Co

Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Founded: 1984
Chairman: Jim Koch
2015 production: 958,000 barrels

The Boston Beer Company was founded in 1984 by James Koch and Rhonda Kallman. The initial beer offering was Samuel Adams Boston Lager, a 4.8% abv amber or Vienna lager, which continues to be its most famous beer.

As of 2014, the company had 1,325 employees in its Boston, Cincinnati and Breinigsville, Pennsylvania breweries.

1. D. G. Yuengling and Son, Inc

Location: Pottsville, Pennsylvania
Founded: 1829 (as Eagle Brewery)
Owner: Richard Yuengling Jr.
2015 production: Undisclosed (2.8 million barrels in 2012)

D. G. Yuengling & Son is the oldest operating brewing company in the United States, established in 1829.

Its headquarters are in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Yuengling produces about 2.8 million barrels annually, operating two Pennsylvania facilities and a brewery in Tampa, Florida.

Due to the popularity of Yuengling Traditional Lager in Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley (including South Jersey), it can be ordered by simply asking for a lager.

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