Beer Giants Still Giant

The Wall Street Journal had a piece on the beer business entitled Beer Giants Cultivate Their Crafty Side which I can’t read in its entirety because I don’t have a subscription, but it did include a chart showing the current state of affairs in the beer industry.


Shifting Suds. “Independent brewers are selling more beer,” but given this comes from the Wall Street Journal (which is all about BIG business) they can’t help but add “but their shipments remain small compared with the big beer brands.”

What the Wall Street Journal forgets to mention is that Anheuser-Busch was founded in 1852 and didn’t hit 1 million annual barrels until 1901, when they were 49 years old. Sierra Nevada took only 35 years (or less) to reach 1 million, and Boston Beer needed even less time, reaching their first million barrels 1996, meaning it took Samuel Adams 12 years.


  1. says

    Boston Beer Co.’s barrelage passed the million barrel mark in 1996, according to the timeline printed in their 2009 Annual Report (25th Anniversary ed.). That agrees with Weinberg data, which puts them at 1,213,000 bbl in ’96.

    Even more impressive is that BBC had only topped the 500k bbl. level in 1994.

  2. Gary Gillman says

    The US population was much smaller though in the late 1800’s, so the comparison to SN is actually more favourable to AB, particularly as the U.S. then was a whiskey-drinking country. So a comparison should factor as well the share beer had of the total alcohol market in the respective periods.

    I am not so sure about BBC given its fairly early achievement of 1M barrels.

    Someone better at math than I might be able to work it all out.

    The trends are clear, however slow-moving and I’d think there will never be a time when craft beer (meaning craft taste, not necessarily made by small independent brewers) is more than 20% of the market, but maybe I’m wrong.


    • says

      I acknowledge it’s not a perfect analogy, but I was feeling annoyed because the Wall Street Journal and the rest of the business press has been covering big beer forever, and they understand it better than the newer, smaller breweries. They get publicly-traded companies, share prices, etc., and they’ve forged relationships with the big guys. So I’ve noticed that they almost always take swipes at the small guys, sometimes overtly and other times in a more passive aggressive way. I tend to the think the news should be objective — naive, I know — and yet the business press so obviously favors the big beer companies that it’s laughable.

      As to the population being smaller, I’m sure that’s true but without doing any research I’d have to believe that per capita consumption was higher in the late 1800s, probably much higher, and that overall more people drank period, so it’s probably close to a wash, or close enough for jazz or for government work.

  3. Beerman49 says

    What the WSJ probably ignored is that BBC was the 1st & still the only craft brewery to advertise nationally on radio & TV. ABI bought Goose Island 3 yrs ago – has anyone ever seen/heard a TV/radio ad for GI – even in the Chicago area?

    BBC has been the most aggressively marketed “craft ” brewery for close to 20 yrs! There were times when the only “craft” beer available at many CA airport bars (including Oakland, the one I fly most from) was Boston Lager, which is CRIMINAL, when CA craft brewers & their OR & WA compadres make hundreds of comparably-priced products that put BL to shame! Anchor’s CA Lager is far superior! The situation’s improved lately, but where you are in the terminal sometimes can make a difference on your choices to avoid the mega-crap.

    CA should pass a law requring airport bars to have at least one CA-produced craft brew (peferably local) on tap (would be even better if the Feds would make that a national law applicable to each state so the concessionaires are forced to get a clue!).

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