Top 10 biggest US craft breweries

Every year the US-based Brewers Association (BA) releases its list of the 50 biggest US craft brewers, detailing the largest breweries in the US still deemed to be ‘craft’ by the trade body.

Hops (Photo: Wiki)

The association describes an American craft brewer as “small, independent and traditional”.

Small means that the brewer has an annual production of six million barrels of beer or less, “flavoured malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition”.

Independent means that “less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer”.

Traditional relates to “a brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavour.”

While big beer has been edging on in the craft beer market for some time, 2016 saw acquisitions of small brewers by big beer companies reach fever pitch.

To name a few examples, AB InBev bought Houston-based Karbach Brewing Company and Virginia-based Devils Backbone, following earlier purchases of Goose Island, Blue Point, Elysian and Golden Road, while MillerCoors bought a majority stake in Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Co. in July.

It meant that while the US craft beer industry added 1.4 million barrels to its production volume in 2016, growing the segment by 6%, it lost 1.2 million barrels of ‘craft’ beer to big brewers.

By value, the US craft beer sector achieved a 10% rise in value to $23.5 billion, which represents 21.9% of the US beer market by value.

As of 2016, there were 5,301 operating breweries in the US – a 17% increase on 2015 – of which 5,234 were deemed to be ‘craft’, according to the Brewer’s Association .


However despite continued growth in brewery operations, production volume of craft beer appear to be slowing.  

In the first half of 2017 the US craft beer sector experienced continued but much steadier growth year-on-year, with mid-year figures from the BA showing that production volumes increased by 5%.

That’s slightly less than 2016’s mid-year increase of 8% and notably lower than the 16% mid-year production increase of 2015.

“The growth pace for small and independent brewers has stabilized at a rate that still reflects progress but in a more mature market,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “Although more difficult to realize, growth still exists.”

Click through for the top 10 biggest US craft brewing companies, based on 2016 beer sales volumes.

All volumes in barrels. 1 barrel = 31 gallons.

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