The annual list showcases independent brewers of all sizes seeing major gains in production.
Every year, the Brewers Association (BA) — the trade group for small and independent craft brewers — releases its list of the largest craft breweries by production volume. It’s an import list, annually reinforcing who the industry leaders are. But as the craft beer industry has matured, it’s also become a stagnant list. Only two breweries were new for 2018: Washington’s Georgetown Brewing at 41 and Massachusetts’s Wachusett Brewing at 43. At the same time, it’s actually been the smallest breweries that have been driving growth in the beer industry in the past few years.
As a result, last year, the BA debuted a new list: the 50 Fastest Growing Breweries. That list is back again, covering 2018 production data, and it once again highlights an extremely varied group of brewers who are all finding ways to grow on their own terms in a very competitive beer market that now has over 7,000 American breweries in total.
“Even as market competition continues to increase, these small and independent breweries and brewpubs demonstrate there are still growth opportunities across a diverse set of regions and business models,” Bart Watson, the BA’s chief economist, said in a statement.
Specifically, the BA points out that these 50 breweries are from 27 different states coast-to-coast with production ranges from just 50 barrels (a.k.a. only 12,400 pints of beer!) to over 40,000 barrels. Breweries on the list “grew from less than 70,000 barrels collectively in 2017 to more than 170,000 barrels in 2018,” the BA explained. “As a group, these brewing companies represent approximately 10 percent of total craft growth by volume for the year, and include 13 brewpubs, 35 microbreweries, and two regional craft breweries.”
Lake Time Brewery of Clear Lake, Iowa, takes the top spot as America’s fastest growing brewery (it’s worth noting that breweries had to meet certain BA criteria to be considered) but the most recognizable name on the list is also one of craft beer’s most-heralded: Massachusetts’s Tree House Brewing came in 45th. The brewery’s juicy India pale ales helped put New England-style IPAs on the map, and Tree House currently has the top three rated American IPAs on the beer rating app Untappd — including its signature Julius.
Meanwhile, as CraftBeer.com points out, four breweries made the list in both 2017 and 2018, showing some serious upward momentum: Hopsters in Newton, Massachusetts; Hutton and Smith Brewing in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Gnarly Barley Brewing in Hammond, Louisiana; and Whalers Brewing in Wakefield, Rhode Island.