The craft brewing world’s annual report card was announced today as the Brewers Association released its ranking of the top 50 craft brewers by beer sales volume (excluding seltzer sales) for 2020. the aftermath of the beer industry’s most chaotic year since prohibition, the list provides a detailed breakdown of how the industry’s biggest players fared and shines a light on the industry’s problems .
BA Chief Economist Bart Watson commented on the changes the pandemic-induced shutdowns have had on the market and the change in consumer buying habits over the past year. “The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed where Americans purchased alcohol in 2020. Breweries that had established packaging and distribution capacity were best positioned to take advantage of the sales boom. take-out and the uncertainty of the weather market. These companies have also seen their performance vary by geography and business model, with different parts of the country experiencing vastly different beer trends and high-pressure breweries suffering.
For the first time in the history of the list, two mainstays of craftsmanship were missing. New Belgium Brewing Company was removed from the list due to its purchase by Lion Little World Beverages, a subsidiary of Asian powerhouse Kirin. While absent from the Crafters list, they made their presence known on the Top 50 Brewing Companies list, boosting Kirin to eleventh place. They weren’t ranked last year. The other missing company name was Dogfish Head due to their 2019 merger by the Boston Beer Company
While the top three spots remained the same as last year, DG Yuengling & Son, Boston Beer Company (with Dogfish Head numbers) and Sierra Nevada, there was some movement within the top ten. Duvel Moortgat USA (Boulevard Brewing Company, Brewery Ommegang and Firestone Walker) has moved to take over the former New Belgium location. CANarchy Craft Beer Collective (Oskar Blues, Cigar City, Deep Ellum, Three Weavers, Perrin, Utah Brewers Cooperative) jumped two spots to No. 6, and Artisanal Brewing Ventures (Six-Point, Victory, Southern Tier) jumped from a spot at No. 8. Returning to the top ten list this year was Deschutes Brewing Company, which found itself at No. 10 after a year-long absence.
The rest of the top ten was rounded out by Gambrinus (Shiner, Trumer) at No. 5, Bell’s Brewery at No. 7 and Stone at No. 9.
Although there were quite a few jockeys in the top 25 with several breweries moving up – Sweetwater (#11), New Glarus (#12) and Matt Brewing (#13) all moved up three spots, while ‘Odells (No. 17) and Harpoon (No. 15) Abita each moved two. The biggest movers were Stevens Point (#16), moving four, Abita (#19), moving five, and Tröegs Independent Brewing (#20), jumping seven. Only one brewer went down, Brooklyn Brewing from #12 to #14.
One of the themes on the list was the struggles felt by many brewers in states that have suffered significant shutdowns due to the pandemic. Three California brands – North Coast Brewing, Bear Republic Brewing and Karl Strauss disappeared from the list, while 21st Amendment Brewing fell five places. “Our numbers show it’s been a tough year for beer sales in California with the loss of on-site sales and numerous lockdowns,” Watson says. “The loss of sales of drafts was felt hard there.”
Nowhere has the loss of on-site sales been more apparent than in their global brewery list which includes all major producers. On this list, Sapporo fell twenty-nine places from No. 19 to No. 48, the biggest drop of any producer. While Watson said on a call the exact cause of the drop was unclear, he believed it could be attributed to the fact that the beer is heavily sold in Japanese and Asian restaurants, many of which have been closed for much of the year.
While overall cottage industry figures won’t be released until next week by the BA, Watson said they expect sales to fall in the high figures. For now, it looks like the unprecedented events of 2020 are continuing to make their presence known.