Friday, March 30, 2012

I'll Bet You're Wrong. I was.

My latest issue of the Modern Brewery Age newsletter arrived via email last Friday. It's a ridiculous subscription, but as I have been getting more into the business of breweries, it has become a surprisingly invaluable and useful resource.

In any event, one of the useful features is the statistics that Pete drops into each issue. For example, in this past newsletter he looked at the Top 50 Craft Packages, Year to Date Ending 2/19/2012.

Not surprisingly, the top of the list is dominated by three breweries: Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium; these three occupy all 12 of the Top 12 packages (Sam Adams Boston Lager 12pk is #1 with almost $4mil in sales on that package alone year-to-date).

There is only 1 package on the list from a Wisconsin brewery. Would you like to guess what it is? A "package" is, roughly, any bottled product available for retail sale. So, what do you think?

New Glarus Spotted Cow 6pk? Nope. That was my guess.
New Glarus Spotted Cow case? Nope. That was my second guess.
At this point, I was guessing almost anything else: Supper Club, Point, etc.

But the real answer? New Glarus Assorted 6pk. At number 50 on the list of the Top 50 nationally with a little over $419K in sales year-to-date.

The range of the Top 50 - under $500K in 2 months to over $3mil in 2 months - is pretty interesting to me. Sam Adams has 3 packages with over $3mil in sales for 2 months! Sierra Nevada is the only other craft brewery with 1. And New Belgium only has one package over $2mil in sales. This is pretty telling on not only the difference in scale from a National brand like Sam Adams, or even Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, to a local/regional craft like New Glarus. New Glarus is the only brewery on the list that is not available in multiple states. Also, there were 15 "Assorted", "Variety", or "Seasonal" packages (both 6pk and 12pk) in the Top 50.


  1. The reason it is listed as New Glarus Assorted is because the six packs all use the same carrier (and thus the same UPC), there is no way to differentiate between packages. The only way to get an estimate would be to get data from the brewers, but that would be based more on production as opposed to retail sales.

    The source of the data should be something like "Nielson Scan Data US Grocery Stores." This data is always skewed towards the fact that it doesn't measure independent liquor stores, bars or restaurants. Grocery stores tend to carry a more limited selection that focuses more heavily on beers with a larger market share.

  2. Interesting. That explains a lot.

  3. So is Leinie's officially not a craft beer? I'd like to see the difference between them and Sam Adams.

  4. Sam Adams is owned by Sam Adams....Leinie is owned by SAB-Miller. that's one difference.

  5. I know. And Goose Island is owned by In-Bev. While the 'indie' vs. 'corporate' argument will probably grow louder as more corporations snap up microbreweries -- see also, Boston Beer Company, NYSE:SAM -- I thought the "craft" designation was calculated by barrels. That right, Jeff?

  6. The Brewers Association has a three part test for whether a brewery is a "Craft Brewery": Small, Independent, and Traditional. Small is defined as any brewery smaller than Sam Adams (technically the definition is 6 million barrels, but this was raised from 2 million barrels, when Sam Adams surpassed 2M bbls last year). Independent means that less than 25% of the brewery is owned by a non-craft brewery (or other "alcoholic beverage industry member"). Traditional means that the brewery's flagship is an all-malt beer (or at least 50% of its volume is all-malt beer).

    So, both Leinie's and Goose Island are out on the "Independent" requirement.

  7. Incidentally, Yuengling is out, if I'm not mistaken, because it doesn't (ironically, considering it is the oldest brewery in the country) meet the "traditional" requirement because it's flagship and other beers aren't "all-malt".

  8. That's really interesting, actually. Especially the power of Sam Adams.

    But I'm curious, if you had the numbers handy, of the annual output of Leinie's vs. Sam Adams. I mean ... you see Leinie's commercials during Brewer games, but Sam Adams during the Super Bowl!

  9. If I remember correctly the Brewers Association's definition is even more arbitrary and subjective, because the "all malt" requirement has an exception that goes something like "unless the non-malt component is used to enhance rather than reduce flavor," which I have always referred to privately as the "spotted cow" rule, because its clearly an out to include breweries like New Glarus who are clearly craft but have a flagship with corn in it. I do also suspect that over half of their sales are not all malt with Cow plus Totally Naked.


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