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Craft Beer And The Recession and Sam Adams No Longer Qualifies As A Craft Brand?

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is one of the first publications to print numbers for the beer industry’s performance in 2008 and things are about on par with where industry experts expected. Sales of craft beer, as defined by Beer Marketer’s Insights, totaled 9.45 million barrels in 2008, a 5-percent increase over the previous year. As the Brewers Association’s total craft beer production number for 2007 was 8,071,241 barrels, BMI likely includes several larger near-craft brands excluded by the BA. The craft segment again beat the overall industry, which turned in a healthy gain of .5-percent. Craft sales enjoyed double-digit growth rates in recent years.

I haven’t seen the BMI numbers yet but a few highlights from the report include a 1.1-percent increase in sales by Sierra Nevada Brewing, a 3.5-percent drop for Miller Lite, which now becomes MillerCoors’ second best-selling brand after Coors Light, and Budweiser dropping 6.1-percent.

Perhaps of greatest interest is that the Boston Beer Company finally went through the magic 2 million barrel mark after posting a monster 8.5-percent increase. With this achievement, Boston Beer and the Brewers Association and its members are going to have to seriously discuss how to handle a “macro craft” brewer. Boston Beer’s numbers include the Twisted Tea line of products, which it could argue should be subtracted from its beer totals for purposes of sneaking in under the Brewers Association’s below 2 million barrel definitional requirement. Boston Beer remains a craft brewer under it’s own definition, which as you may recall defines “small brewer” as one with an “annual production of beer less than 2 million barrels or annual production of beer exceeds 2 million barrels and the brewery was founded as a Craft Brewer and continues to satisfy the other Craft Brewer defining criteria.”

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5 thoughts on “Craft Beer And The Recession and Sam Adams No Longer Qualifies As A Craft Brand?

  1. I’m not crazy about the Brewers Associations definitions to begin with but it seems to me they can just make a “new” catagory for BBC, now that it’s outgrown “regional”- a “National Craft Brewery”.

    “Regional” is a term that just doesn’t apply in the current industry, anyway- it’s a left over from the pre-craft era. There are many breweries in their “15k-2m bbl” range with distribution far beyond what any one would call “regional”. Also, it never really made much sense to say “small” meant anything from an under 1000 barrel brewpub up to 2,000,000 barrels from BBC (and their “macro” contractors).

  2. In addition to Boston Beer Company, would not sierra Nevada and perhaps Anchor Brewing also fall under a
    “national craft beer” category. All three are largely available coast to coast, far outside their original “regions.” Similarly, Coors’ Blue Moon line would probably also qualify. Can anyone thing of others?

  3. I agree that the terms need to be changed due to the growth of the industry and that it seems a bit foolish for a brewery’s success to have a penalizing effect. Beyond pure numbers, it would be difficult to start assigning criteria for labels such as a “national craft brewery” or brand. While Anchor has very wide distribution, it only produces around 75-90k barrels a year with little to no growth. Compare that to New Belgium, which is in less than half of all states with about 5 times the production. As to Blue Moon, I think the Brewers Association would have some problems adding the brand to its numbers, despite the huge bump it would give them…

  4. re: Zamboni Driver’s comment- My “suggestion” of “National Craft Brewery” is based on the old, pre-craft era terminology that had breweries roughly broken down, by total barrelage, into “National” “Regional” and “Local” breweries. Today, especially among the craft brands, the production figures no longer have any relationship with distribution.

    BUT, since the Brewers Association clings to the now-anachronistic “Regional” terminology for 15,000-2,000,000 bbl. brewers, I see no reason why *they* couldn’t use “national” in the same sense.

    I kinda liked the 1980’s era (just as the craft breweries started to take off)industry terminology of “First Tier” “Second Tier” and “Third Tier” which totally eliminate any suggest of size=distribution area.

  5. “I agree that the terms need to be changed due to the growth of the industry and that it seems a bit foolish for a brewery’s success to have a penalizing effect.”

    Been saying this for years; “craft brewery,” and before that, “microbrewery,” definitely have a cachet that resonates with the typical and even not-so-typical consumer of these beers. Why punish a brewery like Sierra Nevada or Boston Beer by taking that away just because they succeed? I like Boston Beer’s “founded as a craft brewery” addition. Why not? It’s a hazy, contrived definition at best anyway.

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