The Brewers Association (BA) released its lists of the top breweries of 2014 list yesterday, heralding the best-selling craft and noncraft breweries around the country.
Buzz sparked almost instantly, as Yuengling now tops the list of craft breweries, edging out incumbent Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams). Savvy craft-beer drinkers might note Yuengling wasn’t on the craft list in previous years, because in 2013, the East Coast brewery produced too much beer to meet the BA’s definition of “craft.” The association changed the capacity requirements in early 2014, making room for larger breweries to join the ranks of the smaller producers. This sparked plenty of controversy at the time (which is now being resurrected with this revelation), with detractors arguing that the BA has watered down the meaning of craft from “small, independent and traditional” to “anything shy of a macro company.”
Other than that glaring update, not much has changed from the previous year. The top five (after Yuengling) remains largely static, with Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Gambrinus and Lagunitas holding onto their spots. New additions to the list include Green Flash, Narragansett and Craftworks Restaurants and Breweries. Overall, the breakdown suggests that craft beers are (surprise!) still on the rise with consumers, and that craft brewing continues to have a good geographical spread around the country.
So how important is this list for us beer drinkers? Not too much, to be honest. Keep in mind, this isn’t a “best” breweries list. Instead, it tracks who sold the most. Other factors that measure brewery quality and value—things like consistency, innovation, distribution systems and marketing tactics—were not taken into consideration. Plus, sales typically directly correlate with a brewery’s capacity. So just because one brewery is larger and has the ability to put out more beer than another doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.
Below is the 2014 Brewers Association list. Check it out and see what you think. We’re going to take it with a grain of salt.