The Brewers Association just announced the top 50 breweries and craft breweries in the U.S. based on sales, by volume, for 2018, which is listed below here. I should also mention that this represents “craft breweries” according to the BA’s membership definition, and not necessarily how most of us would define them, as there’s no universally agreed upon way to differentiate the two. For the eleventh year, they’ve also released a list of the top 50 breweries, which includes all breweries. In the past I’ve posted the two lists separately, but have decided going forward to present them together since the two are getting increasingly intermingled. I confess I used to look more forward to this list every year as it represented greater and wider acceptance of craft in the marketplace, but it doesn’t seem to hold the same thrill for me anymore, perhaps I’m getting jaded. Here is this year’s craft brewery list and overall breweries, too:
And below here is a map showing the Top 50 craft breweries, as defined by the BA, on a map. If you look at the press release itself, there are 22 footnotes of explanation for the Top 50 overall (a-v), which is one less than last year, but still seems like too many. I feel like it should be simpler. As many people predicted many years ago, the larger craft breweries seem more like the regional breweries of yesteryear, and have less in common with their smaller brethren than with the big breweries. That’s why many of them also belong to the Beer Institute, along with other organizations. I just realized I whined about this very fact last year, so it’s obvious this is not an issue that’s going away anytime soon. I don’t know what the solution is, but setting up the us vs. them dichotomy no longer feels to me like the right direction to me. I understand it up to a point, but the brewing world is not as black and white as it used to be, and I believe there needs to be a new way to look at it that isn’t so unforgiving. And it isn’t just the BA, I was disheartened to talk to a few brewers this year who were excluded from the SF Beer Week gala because they weren’t, or couldn’t be, guild members, which is not the original idea behind SF Beer Week. When we first started it, we wanted to include everybody. That was, indeed, the point. Anyway, congratulations to all the breweries in the Top 50 for another great year, and especially the few new names on this year’s list.