Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quantity Does Not Imply Quality...

but the map in the link above does give one food for thought. I was surprised that Matt Brewery, of Utica, NY, comes in as the 6th largest craft brewery in the U.S. Number 1 is Boston Beer of course, the makers of Sam Adams, and I have to figure it swamps the contenders on the rest of the list. Late night Googling did not yield the numbers I wanted, but it looks like it sells at least twice as much beer as number 2 on the list, Sierra Nevada. Great timing on getting into the craft beer game, and good marketing, making up for a lot of mediocre beer (before anyone shoots me, I think they have managed to produce varieties over the years that are very good, but beer that is much better than their flagship ale and lager has become common).

I don't think I would have guessed anything even resembling the actual list after the first two. Number 3 is New Belgium Brewery, a name unknown to me, which turns out to be the creator of Fat Tire. I like the beer, and I know it's popular, but 3rd largest? No idea.

Spoetzl Brewery is number 4. I probably would have had to look this one up, too, except the map helpfully shows that it's located in Shiner, Texas. They appear to sell less than half the quantity of beer that Sierra Nevada does.

Pyramid Breweries in Seattle is number 5. They have a chain of brewpubs, and I've never tasted, seen or heard of them before. The brewpub chains seem to be well-represented on this list. In addition to Pyramid, I recognized Rock Bottom and Gordon Biersch (which appears twice).

After F.X. Matt's brewery, I figure we're getting into much smaller operations, so the surprise to me is how low some of the brews I like appear on the list. Magic Hat is 12, Brooklyn Brewery is 19, Rogue is 21, Dogfish Head is 25.

The geographic distribution isn't quite what I would have expected, either. California's spot at the top is predictable, but Washington has only 2 breweries that make the cut? Oregon has 5, so the northwest overall has a decent showing, but Colorado has 6 in the top 50! Somehow an operation in Salt Lake City was also able to make a success of itself, despite the stony native soil.

No offense to Michigan, but just 1? I thought they liked beer up there.

A map like this makes me wish I travelled more. I think I'll try to make a wallet-sized version, just in case.


J. said...

You had me at Fat Tire.

But I had no idea they were the third largest craft brewer.

Btw, the spouse and I are thinking of going on a pilgrimage to Denver to sample us some craft brews and hike and bike (not all at the same time) this summer. If we make it, will report back.

JWE said...

I have sampled from at least 70 percent of the list. Note the lack of a ranked brewery in the Old Dominion. Perhaps that is good that people no longer can ride bicycles to a NOVA brewpub.

MI boasts a number of quality ales. In a connection with Texas, a MI brewery owns the Celis recipes (once brewed in Austin) and thankfully continue production.

Noteable but missing:

All are yummy. Fat Tire always makes me drool.


MLR said...

Spoetzl makes my favorite beer, Shiner Bock (discovered at a conference in San Antonio). Someday I want to make a pilgrimage there. I'd forgive you for not knowing of it if you lived up here in NJ, where it is not available, but you can get it in Virginia and Maryland. I have relatives in SC bring me a case any time they drive up.

J. said...

Also missing from the list, Spanish Peaks Brewing, the maker of Black Dog Ale, which may be my favorite ale ever. (Yes, even better than Fat Tire, Dave.)

And when we lived in Chicagoland, there were few things that quenched your thirst better than a nice, cold Leinenkugel.

CRH said...

I do indeed know Shiner Bock. I just didn't know the brewery that produced it until I saw on the map that Spoetzl was located in Shiner.

Dave S. said...

IIRC Matt's Brewery brewed for a number of start-up craft places including Brooklyn and I think even Sam Adams, before they established their own physical plant.

Colorado does not necessarily surprise me as I imagine there are lots of Coors Co. alums out there who have gone off on their own, just not very far geographically.

Anonymous said...

I'm really late to this posting, which is otherwise in the wheelhouse of my extra-curricular interests. I'm overjoyed to see that Brooklyn Brewery is doing well and may not need my $11 per six-pack, which is what my Maryland County charges for their wares. They make the single finest example of an IPA that I've encountered.

I think I'll throw more money at Wild Goose, a Maryland beer acquired by the makers of Blue Ridge. They produced my previously favorite IPA at slightly more than half the price of the Brooklyn product.

I have to shout out to Michigan's Bell's Brewery, which made the list and produces the superlative "Three Hearted." This is a good age to love a sensible application of hops.