While the idea of craft breweries may bring to mind small local projects, there are plenty that have grown to become massive corporations. Many of them have grown so big they’ve begun to incorporate other breweries and brands through acquisitions and mergers. Your favorite beverage very well may be a part of something larger than you were aware of.
One of the best things about the world of craft brewing is the range of styles and fashions that breweries come in. Some are huge, some small projects. Some specialize in one form of beer and some experiment with everything they can. The big ones have found a way to build a brewing passion into a thriving corporation. Here we feature some of the largest in the United States.
The largest craft brewing company in the United States by barrels produced, Yuengling has not gained its title by brewing a tremendous amount of styles of beer. It has found the things it does well and provides those at a high level. Best known for its Traditional Lager, this brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania can trace its roots all the way back to 1829.
The brewery survived prohibition in the 1920s by creating a ‘near beer’ product and building a dairy that sustained them through the time. At the end of the ban, the brewery promptly continued their brewing by creating the “Winner Beer” and shipping a truckload of that beer to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Now nearing 200 years of existence, Yuengling has been passed through five generations of fathers and sons and is now owned solely by Dick Yuengling. Now at 76 years old, this billionaire brewer doesn’t have plans of moving on from the industry yet. It is unknown who will succeed Dick as the next owner of the brewery, but if the tradition of passing to children continues, one of Dick’s four daughters would be next in line.
Boston Beer Company
The brewing pride of a very proud New England brewing state, Boston Beer Company is best known as Samuel Adams, the name that gave the company its start. Launched with its renowned Boston Lager, this brewery has grown to incorporate many beverage names under its umbrella.
While Sam Adams remains the feature of what the Boston Beer Company has to offer, the company as a whole actually functions through two divisions. First is the Boston Beer Company that is made up of Samuel Adams, Twisted Tea, Angry Orchard, and Truly Spiked and Sparkling. The second division of the company is the A&S Brewing Collaborative. This portion of the business is made up of The Traveler Beer Company, Coney Island Brewing Company, Angel City Brewing Company, and Concrete Beach Brewing Company.
Where the Boston Beer Company is devoted to a range of alcoholic beverages from ciders to seltzers to beer, the A&S Brewing Collaborative is explicitly comprised of breweries across the country, giving Boston Beer Company a significant piece of markets in many regions.
If this company was not big enough, in 2019, it announced the signing of a merger agreement with yet another brewery, Dogfish Head. The combination of Boston Beer with the Delaware-based Dogfish Head makes an even more formidable brewing collaborative. Some might worry about large companies coming in and commercializing the beauty of an artisan industry. But there is no doubt that Sam Adams will not be compromising its trademark character, nor will Dogfish Head be changing its memorable quirkiness. The combination brings forth opportunities to yield a host of new culinary experiences
By no means has Sierra Nevada reached the scale that Boston Beer Company has with its acquisitions, but in 2019, it took a step in that direction when it made its first acquisition ever. Sierra Nevada acquired the San Francisco brewery Sufferfest after Caitlin Landesberg, the founder of Sufferfest, met Sierra Nevada CEO Jeff White at a beverage conference, and the two found their values aligned. Each of the two companies makes an effort to operate with an attitude of social and environmental consciousness.
The Sufferfest Beer Company directs its mission towards drinkers with a healthy and athletic attitude. The brand has partnered with several extreme sports athletes, including hikers, skiers, rock climbers, and ultra-runners. Sierra Nevada lines up with the rustic style athleticism with their initiatives towards sustainability and advocacy for outdoor trails and wildlife.
The two teaming up is a signal of a more substantial niche that is growing in the craft brewing world. For a product that is not a great addition to your healthy diet, many are diving into the market to create the most robust alternative for people to enjoy their beer without the guilt.
New Belgium Brewing Company
New Belgium is a Certified B Corporation that places its values in upgrading the quality of environmental practices for brewing. The Colorado and North Carolina breweries of the company are sitting in the mountains and by rivers. Every brewer puts a premium on the quality of the water they use for brewing, giving New Belgium plenty of reason for placing a premium on supporting and sustaining the land they work with.
In 2008, New Belgium Brewing Company joined the 1% for the Planet movement. It remains committed to making an impact on environmental wellness by donating a minimum of one percent of all sales to nonprofits that are working to protect the planet. That one percent might seem insignificant, but that is one percent of a tremendously large pie.
There have been reports of New Belgium having growing pains in the transition from a smaller craft brewing project to the massive corporation it has become, but that is to be expected with any significant expansion. New Belgium remains transparent on all of its environmental initiatives by publishing their progress towards their goals on their website.
Lagunitas has a story behind it that will be familiar to many craft breweries. Getting started as a simple brewing project at home, Tony Magee got to a point where he needed to find another location for his homebrewing. Before too long, the need for increased production and more significant sites came again and again. As his brewing expanded and his followers grew, he attached the name of a nearby Northern California town to his brewing passion, Lagunitas.
The transition from kitchen project to business is a story that many microbreweries share. Not so many of them have grown to the size and distribution of Lagunitas. Now with Taprooms in Petaluma, Seattle, and Chicago, Lagunitas is a name that can now be recognized from coast to coast. That is a claim that not even Yuengling can make. Although the beer behemoth takes the crown for most barrels produced annually, it still distributes its beer primarily to the east coast.
Bell’s General Store opened in 1983 with Larry Bell already having years of experience under his belt with brewing beer. In 1985, he sold his first commercial beer, and from there, the growth was merely a matter of time. Now, with nearly half a century of brewing experience under his belt, it would be a struggle to find anybody with as much knowledge around the brewing business as Larry Bell.
Bell’s has rolled out new beers year after year, coming up with new innovative styles to add to their consistently growing list of delicious fan favorites. These beverages can be enjoyed in their Eccentric Cafe and General Store in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Bell’s has events, shows, and delivers on a range of foods from their kitchen menu. It creates an ideal environment for drinking with friends, and it is a pleasure to see that a brewery like this has been able to reach production level to grace this list with others that focus on growth and distribution.
Bell’s is known for feeding back into the culture of homebrewing, where you can find recipes on their website to create delicious homebrews of your own. They also hold events across the country that continue to inject life and excitement into the brewing nation. With its two breweries in Kalamazoo and Comstock, Bell’s has become a staple of the Michigan culture, and Larry Bell shows no signs of relenting on his lifelong passion.
Size Is Not The Only Thing That Matters
By no means are these the only breweries that have grown to massive levels. This is just where the list begins. Breweries have a sturdy base of support that continue to fuel their growth and justify expansion. Not to mention justifying more and more breweries opening for business. With the number of breweries in the United States now well over 7,000, there appear to be no limits to the beer production that America can support. Americans love their beer.
Whether you are a fan of the breweries across the country and cheer for their growth or prefer to stay local and find the breweries close to you, we’ve got you covered. At our Brewery Spotlight, we will be featuring Breweries of all sizes and styles, local and national, small and large. If you have an interest in discovering new breweries near or far, this will be an ideal place for you to do it. Furthermore, if there is a brewery that you feel deserves our attention, we would love to hear from you. It would be difficult to uncover all of the gems under the more than 7000 stones of American breweries, and we appreciate your support in finding ones that are truly deserving of attention.