Special Report

35 Most Successful Craft Breweries in America

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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.

Click here to see the top craft breweries in America.

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.

Source: Courtesy of Allison B. via Yelp

35. Flying Dog Brewery
> Location(s): Frederick, Maryland
> 2014 ranking: 37

Known for its colorful, offbeat Ralph Steadmen labels, Flying Dog serves up a range of IPAs (including one flavored with blood orange purée) and such specialties as Cookies ‘N Cream Milk Stout and a pepper-infused 7 Pot Pepper Pale Ale.


Source: Courtesy of Francis R. via Yelp

34. Surly Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Minneapolis
> 2014 ranking: n/a

Launched at the end of 2005 with an oatmeal brown ale called Bender, followed by a strongly hopped IPA called Furious, Surly had a major influence on Minneapolis craft brewing: A Prohibition-era statute banned breweries from selling their wares on-site — until Surly proprietor Omar Ansari lobbied to get the law changed. The so-called “Surly Bill,” passed in 2011, ultimately led to a flowering of the state’s brewery scene.

Source: Courtesy of Georgetown Brewing via Facebook

33. Georgetown Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Seattle
> 2014 ranking: n/a

Georgetown, incorporated in 2002, billed itself as the largest draft-only brewery in America until 2017, when it began selling some of its output in cans (and occasionally 22-ounce bottles) in addition to kegs. Manny’s Pale Ale and Bodhizafa IPA between them account for 70% of the facility’s production.

Source: Courtesy of Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant via Facebook

32. Gordon Biersch Brewing Co.
> Location(s): San Jose, California
> 2014 ranking: n/a

This operation, which dates its origins to 1988, produces beer in the German tradition, including a lager called Cave Raider Blonde Bock and another labeled Full Pressure Unfiltered Pilsner. Brewery founders Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch wanted to combine their beer with food, and there are now some 13 Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants (financially unaffiliated with the brewery itself) in 11 states, plus six in Taiwan.


Source: Courtesy of Matt P. via Yelp

31. Three Floyds Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Munster, Indiana
> 2014 ranking: n/a

Founded in a garage in 1995, Three Floyds grew into an accomplished microbrewery, whose Dark Lord Imperial Stout was once named the best beer in America by Beer Advocate (and the brewery’s Dreadnaught IPA was designated fourth-best).

Source: Courtesy of Shari W. via Yelp

30. Narragansett Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Pawtucket, Rhode Island
> 2014 ranking: 47

A real old-timer on the craft beer scene, opened in 1890, ‘Gansett, as it’s popularly known, is most famous for its flagship lager. The brewery’s product line, though, also now includes an IPA called It’s About Time, and Fresh Catch, a golden ale keyed to clam bakes and lobster boils.


Source: Courtesy of Jen W. via Yelp

29. 21st Amendment Brewery
> Location(s): San Leandro, California; San Francisco
> 2014 ranking: 41

Founded in 2000, 21st Amendment (named for the 1933 Constitutional modification that repealed Prohibition) operates a full-service pub and a taproom and beer garden as well as a brewery. The beers, in elaborately illustrated cans, include a Mexican-style lager called El Sully and a summertime wheat beer called Hell or High Watermelon.

Source: Courtesy of Marisa C. via Yelp

28. Allagash Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Portland, Maine
> 2014 ranking: 42

When Allagash launched in 1995, it made only a single brew, a wheat beer called Allagash White. A dozen years later, the brewery produced the first lambic — a spontaneously fermented Belgian ale — on American soil, called Coolship Resurgam. It is known as a specialist in Belgian-style beers.

Source: Courtesy of Tröegs Independent Brewing

27. Tröegs Independent Brewing
> Location(s): Hershey, Pennsylvania
> 2014 ranking: 44

Tröegs sold its first beer, a pale ale, in 1997. Now located in the chocolate capital of Hershey, Pennsylvania, the brewery produces almost 60 different beers, both year-round and seasonal. There are a number of fruit-flavored ales (Freaky Peach, Mortal Cherry, etc.), assorted IPAs, and, yes, three different chocolate stouts.


Source: Courtesy of Rhinegeist

26. Rhinegeist Brewery
> Location(s): Cincinnati
> 2014 ranking: n/a

Opened in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in 2013, Rhinegeist produces an immense portfolio of beers. This includes IPAs called Truth and Knowledge, numerous seasonal selections (some of them infused with fruit), and almost 200 limited edition bottlings with names like Existential Apples, Nitro Crumb Cake, and Vincent Van Goat.

Source: Courtesy of Mark P. via Yelp

25. August Schell Brewing Co.
> Location(s): New Ulm, Minnesota
> 2014 ranking: 27

August Schell, founded in 1860, bills itself as the second-oldest brewery in the United States still owned by its founding family — Pennsylvania’s D.G. Yuengling & Son dates from 1829 (see No. 1) — and the first Minnesota brewery to produce craft beer. Its beers are primarily German-style, including wheat beers and dark lagers. One exception is the straw-colored Deer Brand Pre-Prohibition American Lager.


Source: Courtesy of Abita Brewing Company via Facebook

24. Abita Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Covington, Louisiana
> 2014 ranking: 21

Made just north of New Orleans, and a great favorite in the Crescent City, Abita was founded in 1986. The brewery’s Amber Lager and Big Easy IPA are among its standards. Other offerings include a hazy (intentionally cloudy) IPA dubbed Lounging Iguanas and a limited-release Macchiato Espresso Milk Stout.

Source: Courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing Company via Facebook

23. Great Lakes Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Cleveland
> 2014 ranking: 23

Operating since 1986, Great Lakes produces more than 200 brews in many styles, the vast majority of them draft-beer pub exclusives. One regular bottling, Eliot Ness Amber Lager, is named for the legendary Prohibition agent who frequented the tavern that became the site of the brewery’s brewpub — and who once employed Great Lakes founders Pat and Dan Conway’s mother as a stenographer.

Source: Courtesy of Lisa T. via Yelp

22. Alaskan Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Juneau, Alaska
> 2014 ranking: 20

When this operation geared up in 1986, it became the first brewery opened in the Alaskan capital since Prohibition. Beers available year-round include Icy Bay IPA and Freeride Pale Ale. One offering of the brewery’s Pilot Series of specialty limited editions is Pineapple Jalapeño Gose (a sour unfiltered wheat beer).


Source: Courtesy of Kea C. via Yelp

21. Summit Brewing Co.
> Location(s): St. Paul, Minnesota
> 2014 ranking: 28

A 19th-century-style Imperial Russian Stout, a nut brown ale called Cranky Woodsman, and an unfiltered Elderflower IPA are among the beers produced by this Twin Cities brewery, founded in 1986.

Source: Courtesy of Kathy V. via Yelp

20. Stevens Point Brewery
> Location(s): Stevens Point, Wisconsin
> 2014 ranking: 26

The original Stevens Point Brewery was established in 1857, and provided beer to Union soldiers during the Civil War. In addition to Classic Amber Lager and four other year-round beers, Stevens Point produces a handful of seasonal brews (Lake Side Vacation Ale, Oktoberfest, etc.) and a line of non-alcoholic Point Premium sodas.


Source: Courtesy of Kristi M. via Yelp

19. Odell Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Fort Collins, Colorado
> 2014 ranking: 34

Odell boasts a varied collection of beers ranging from a straightforward Colorado Lager to a seasonal “winter warmer” called — appropriately enough for the current situation — Isolation Ale. Opened in 1989, the brewery is now 100% employee-owned.

Source: Courtesy of Gerry T. via Yelp

18. Minhas Craft Brewery
> Location(s): Monroe, Wisconsin
> 2014 ranking: 10

What is now Minhas Craft Brewery originally went into production in 1845, three years before Wisconsin became a state. It went through several changes of name and ownership through the years before Ravinder Minhas, a Canadian native of Indian descent, took it over and renamed it in 2006, at the age of 24. Minhas produces numerous beers under labels including Boxer, Huber, and Mountain Crest.

Source: Jason Lengstorf / Flickr

17. Harpoon Brewery
> Location(s): Boston
> 2014 ranking: 15

Employee-owned Harpoon makes everything from a classic IPA to a coffee porter co-branded with Dunkin’. A Massachusetts craft beer pioneer, it received state brewing permit #001 in 1986, and subsequently released New England’s first seasonal craft brew, Harpoon Winter Warmer.


Source: Courtesy of Christopher D. via Yelp

16. F.X. Matt Brewing Co. / Saranac
> Location(s): Utica, New York
> 2014 ranking: 14

German immigrant Francis Xavier Matt founded the West End Brewing Co. in 1888. During Prohibition, the brewery survived by making soft drinks, and upon Repeal, obtained the nation’s first license to make and sell beer. Now renamed in honor of its founder and run by fourth-generation members of the Matt family, it is best known for its Saranac beers — including Adirondack Lager and S’more Porter.

Source: Courtesy of Christine M. via Yelp

15. New Glarus Brewing Co.
> Location(s): New Glarus, Wisconsin
> 2014 ranking: 19

Dating from 1993, New Glarus produces year-round, seasonal, and specialty beers, including some in a very limited Thumbprint series. Flavored beers are common: Its Wisconsin Belgian Red is said to be made with over a pound of Wisconsin cherries per bottle; the seasonal Cabin Fever bock is made with clover honey; a Thumbprint Strawberry Rhubarb beer is infused with those two fruits.


Source: Courtesy of SweetWater Taproom via Facebook

14. SweetWater Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Atlanta
> 2014 ranking: 18

Founded in 1997, SweetWater is active in the conservation movement, donating money to fish and wildlife organizations. Not surprisingly, then, its beers include a Hatchery series (including Golden Summer Ale and Chocolate Milk Stout) and a Woodlands Project series, an example of which is PNP Plums, a sour beer made with Italian plums and aged for two years in French oak.

Source: brostad / Flickr

13. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
> Location(s): Milton, Delaware
> 2014 ranking: 13

Dogfish Head, opened in 1995, merged last year with the Boston Beer Co. (see No. 2), though the operations remain separate. The brewery was an early proponent of so-called extreme beer, generally higher in alcohol than ordinary brews and flavored with unusual ingredients — for instance, its Bourbon Barrel-Aged Fruit-Full Fort, with an ABV of 17%, made with four kinds of fresh berries.

Source: Courtesy of Josh G. via Yelp

12. Brooklyn Brewery
> Location(s): Brooklyn, New York
> 2014 ranking: 11

In the late 19th century, Brooklyn was a brewing hub, producing more than 10% of all the beer in the U.S., but today’s Brooklyn Brewery was founded only in 1987. Its flagship is Brooklyn Lager, but other offerings range from a raspberry-infused sour ale called Rosé de Ville to Brooklyn Black Ops, an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels.


Source: Jason Lengstorf / Flickr

11. Deschutes Brewery
> Location(s): Bend, Oregon
> 2014 ranking: 7

A beer-lover’s landmark in Bend since 1988, Deschutes has a varied product line that includes Lil’ Squeezy Juicy Ale, Fresh Haze IPA, and a seasonal Tangelo & Cardamom Sour Ale.

Source: Courtesy of Victory Brewing Company

10. Artisanal Brewing Ventures
> Location(s): Downingtown, Pennsylvania; Lakewood and Brooklyn, New York
> 2014 ranking: n/a

Not itself a brewery but the North Carolina-based parent company of three craft breweries, Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania (established in 1996), and Southern Tier Brewing (2002) and Sixpoint Brewing (2004), both in New York State. Sample beers include Victory’s Classic Easy Drinkin’ Lager, Southern Tier’s 2XIPA Double India Pale Ale, and Sixpoint’s Barrel-Aged 4Beans Porter.


Source: Courtesy of Stone Brewing Co.

9. Stone Brewing
> Location(s): Escondido, California
> 2014 ranking: 9

Stone Pale Ale, still produced, was the first beer made when this operation started in 1996. The portfolio now includes a number of other IPAs, including a special releases that are made only once a year — or in some cases that are produced for one year only.

Source: Courtesy of Google Maps 2018

8. CANarchy
> Location(s): Longmont, Colorado; Tampa, Florida; Comstock, Michigan; Inglewood, California; San Francisco; Dallas
> 2014 ranking: n/a

A “craft beer collective” founded in 2015, CANarchy is composed of seven individual breweries nationwide: Oskar Blues Brewery, Cigar City Brewing, Squatters Craft Beers, Wasatch Brewery, Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Perrin Brewing Company, and Three Weavers Brewing Company. A few of the many beers sold under the umbrella are Cigar City’s Jai Alai India Pale Ale, Perrin’s Blonde Porter Ale with Chocolate, and Three Weavers’ Cloud City Hazy IPA.

Source: brostad / Flickr

7. Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
> Location(s): Comstock, Michigan
> 2014 ranking: 8

Proprietor Larry Bell started by selling supplies for home brewers and made his own first commercial beer in 1985. The brewery has swelled in size since then, thanks in large part to its acclaimed Two Hearted Ale (made with Wisconsin hops and English malt), first released in 1997.


Source: Courtesy of St. Gambrinus Beer Shoppe via Facebook

6. Gambrinus
> Location(s): Berkeley, California; Shiner, Texas
> 2014 ranking: 5

Gambrinus is not itself a brewery, but has two beer brands: Shiner, made at the historic Spoetzl Brewery, founded in Shiner, Texas, in 1909, and Trumer, opened in 2004 as a sister property to the centuries-old Trumer Brauerei in Austria. Shiner Bock, a Texan interpretation of a German classic style, is legendary in Texas. Trumer Pils, a German-style pilsner, is Trumer’s signature.

Source: Courtesy of Duvel

5. Duvel Moortgat
> Location(s): Paso Robles, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Cooperstown, New York
> 2014 ranking: 12

A Belgian brewing company founded in 1871, Duvel Moortgat owns Boulevard Brewing Company in Missouri (founded 1989), Firestone Walker Brewing Company (1996) in California, and Brewery Ommegang (1997) in New York. Among the beers produced by the various facilities are Ommegang Abbey Dubbel (a Trappist-style dark ale), Firestone Parabola (an imperial Russian stout), and Boulevard Radler (a seasonal citrus beer brewed with ginger and lemon).


Source: Courtesy of New Belgium Brewing Co.

4. New Belgium Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Fort Collins, Colorado; San Francisco
> 2014 ranking: 4

New Belgium’s founders opened their brewery in 1991. One of their first beers was an amber ale called Fat Tire, which became their signature. Formerly employee-owned, New Belgium was bought late last year by Lion Little World Beverages, a subsidiary of Japan’s Kirin Holdings Co.

Source: Courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

3. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
> Location(s): Chico, California
> 2014 ranking: 3

One of the country’s largest craft producers, Sierra Nevada, founded in 1980, best-known for its Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Other offerings include Narwhal (an Imperial stout), Kellerweis (a Bavarian-style wheat beer), and Hop Bullet (a double IPA).

Source: Courtesy of Sam Adams Boston Tap Room via Facebook

2. Boston Beer Co.
> Location(s): Boston
> 2014 ranking: 2

Founded in 1984, Boston Beer Co. is most famous for its Samuel Adams Boston Lager, but has a wide range of other beers, including Cream Stout, a super-strong (28.0% ABV) barrel-aged ale called Utopias, and a selection of seasonal releases. It also owns Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (see No. 13).


Source: Courtesy of D.G. Yuengling and Son, Inc.

1. D.G. Yuengling and Son, Inc.
> Location(s): Pottsville, Pennsylvania
> 2014 ranking: 1

This family-owned institution is the oldest brewery in America, founded in 1829. Even though it’s a large-scale producer, it is independently owned and ships fewer than 6 million barrels a year, so Yuengling meets the Brewers Association definition of a craft brewery. Its sales are particularly impressive considering that it is distributed only on the East Coast and in the South.

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