Mr. Sam Adams no longer reigns supreme atop the Brewers Association Top 50 craft breweries list. In 2014, D. G. Yuengling and Son of Pottsville, Penn. supplanted Boston Beer Company for the top spot by beer sales volume, according to the list released today. That unseating, along with the first-time appearance of Monroe, Wisc.’s Minhas and New Ulm, Minn.’s August Schell, come courtesy of a new Brewers Association definition of “craft” that now includes breweries that use adjunct grains such as corn and rice as a portion of their recipes.
To be considered a craft brewery, a company must be “small, independent and traditional,” as defined by the BA. Small, in this case, means an annual production of less than 6 million barrels of beer. Independent refers to companies of which less than 25 percent is owned by an alcohol industry corporation that is not itself a craft brewery. And traditional here means that a majority of a breweries’ total beverage alcohol volume is made up of beers “whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation” (so flavored malt beverages aren’t considered beer in this case).
Yuengling still trailed Anheuser-Busch, Miller Coors and Pabst for overall beer sales by volume in 2014, but craft beer as defined by the BA reached an 11 percent share of the total beer market. That marks the first time the craft category has hit double-digit market share. No doubt the increase in market share was bolstered by Yuengling and others’ arrival to the craft camp, fueling the BA’s goal of reaching 20 percent market share by 2020. Overall, 42 of the 50 largest beer companies in the U.S. fit the BA’s definition of craft.