Americans love beer. In 2018, we quaffed about 6.3 billion gallons of it in all, which works out to an average of roughly 26.2 gallons per adult of drinking age (not that adults of drinking age are the only ones consuming it, of course). The overwhelming majority of what we consume is mass-produced, most of it made by brands owned by one of two companies — Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors. More than 29 million barrels of the country’s single best-selling beer, Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light, were shipped in 2018. In addition to Bud Light, these are the biggest beer brands in America.
In contrast, the country’s estimated 7,500-plus craft breweries combined shipped only 25.9 million barrels. But while overall U.S. beer sales decreased 1% in 2018 over the previous year, craft brew sales grew by 4%.
Every year, the Brewers Association, a non-profit trade group representing more than 4,800 breweries, releases two lists of the top brewing companies in the U.S. (members of the Association and otherwise) according to the previous year’s sales volume. One list covers companies overall, including Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, while the other concentrates on craft breweries. That one is the basis for this list. (For an alternative ranking, based on social media engagement as opposed to sales, see the 35 most popular craft breweries in America.)
Unfortunately, the craft beer industry’s healthy sale trend last year will almost certainly not be repeated in 2020. Restaurants, bars, taprooms, and brew pubs have traditionally been a major source of income for smaller breweries, and as places like these have been closed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and then reopened only partially, craft producers have seen income plummet. Some respected breweries have shut down permanently, while others are barely holding on. In Texas, for instance, two-thirds of the state’s many craft brewers predict that their businesses won’t survive until the end of the year under current operating restrictions.
The good news is that almost 70 craft breweries across the nation have received PPP loans, in amounts ranging from $1 million to $10 million, so perhaps they’ll be able to ride out the crisis.
In the meantime, looking back on better days, here are America’s top 35 craft breweries for 2019, according to the Brewers Association. The locations listed are for headquarters and/or principal facilities only, and some of these breweries have additional locations.