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Industry News (Issue 19)

Brewers Association Top 50 Undergoes Big Change In 2014

The changes wrought by the Brewer's Association's new definition of what comprises a craft brewery resulted in a radically altered line-up when the 2014 Top 50 Craft Breweries list was released. In its first appearance on the list, D.G. Yuengling and Son, Inc. took over the top spot.

In the past, if a brewer used rice or corn as an ingredient in its beer (other than selected stles such as cream ales), they were not regarded as a craft brewer. That interpretation was changed at the behest of the BA's board of directors.

If a brewer has used ingredients such as corn and rice traditionally, it is now considered a craft brewer by the BA if it meets other criteria for size and independence.

The additions have boosted the total annual production volume of the craft brewers on the list by 3.5 million barrels, according to the BA's Chief Economist Bart Watson, and brought the BA another step closer to its stated goal of 20 percent of the U.S. beer market by 2020. In 2014, craft brewers under BA guidelines accounted for 11 percent of the overall beer market and produced 22.2 million barrels.

The 11 percent represented the first double digit share for the BA's craft segment. The figure excludes other flavorful beer producers such as the Craft Brew Alliance and Tenth and Blake Beer Company. Overall, the shift continues among American consumers toward flavorful beer and away from light lagers.

The BA's new definition brought some ironic changes. The Boston Beer Company, long recognized as the leader in volume among BA brewers, was unseated by first-time entrant Yuengling. The definition shift also allowed Wisconsin's Minhas Craft Brewery (formerly Joseph Huber Brewing Company) to enter the list at number 10 and opened the doors for Minnesota's August Schell Brewing Company (27th) and Rhode Island's Narragansett Brewing Company (47th).

Blue Point Brewing Company, number 42 on the 2013 list, was removed after being acquired by AB InBev in 2014.

Founders Brewing Company, 17th on the list, announced last fall that it had sold 30 percent of its equity to Mahou San Miguel, the leading brewer in Spain. BA rules have limited ownership to 25 percent by a non-craft. But the Founders question has been postponed until next year's list appears due to the sale not closing prior to January 1, 2015.