Six Colorado Craft Breweries Are Among the Largest in the Nation

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Colorado continues to count six of its beer-makers among the fifty largest craft breweries in the country, but some of their positions on that list slid in 2014, thanks to a rule change from the Boulder-based Brewers Association: Breweries that use corn as a beer adjunct – but still produce fewer than six million barrels per year – are now considered to be “craft” again.

That means that some of the nation's oldest and largest breweries – Pennsylvania's Yuengling, Wisconsin's Minhas Craft Brewery, Rhode Island's Narragansett Brewing and Minnesota-based August Schell Brewing – were able to muscle their way back onto the list, which the BA released today.

In fact, D. G. Yuengling and Son Inc. has now displaced Boston Beer as the largest craft brewer in the country. Boston Beer is second, followed by California's Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, based in Fort Collins, which is now fourth on the list.

The other Colorado entries are Oskar Blues, which remained 24th on the list due to its double-digit growth; Odell, which stayed in the 34th position; Left Hand, which dropped two spots to 40th; Rock Bottom owner Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries, which dropped ten spots to 49th; and Breckenridge Brewery, which also fell ten spots, landing in the 50th and final position.

There were 3,464 breweries operating in the United States at the end of 2014, up 19 percent over the previous year; 3,418 of those were considered to be “craft.”

The trade group made the change to its often controversial definition in February 2014, after deciding that “adjunct brewing is quite literally traditional, as brewers have long brewed with what has been available to them,” according to a statement at that time.  

“The revised definition provides room for the innovative capabilities of craft brewers to develop new beer styles and be creative within existing beer styles,” Gary Fish, the former BA chairman and president of Deschutes Brewery, said in that statement. “Taken as a whole, these changes are about looking forward, about the BA of the future, making the association stronger and keeping staff focused on the vital work they do for all of us in the craft brewing community.”

Since the revision will add millions of barrels per year to what is now considered to be craft beer, it also helps the BA work more quickly toward its stated goal of achieving 20 percent market share by 2020. Earlier this month, the BA revealed that craft brewers now account for 11 percent of the marketplace – the first time the industry reached a double-digit volume number. In 2014, craft brewers produced 22.2 million barrels of beer, up 18 percent over 2013; sales grew 22 percent to $19.6 billion, for 19.3 percent of the market.

The growth came in part due to the rule change, however, since Yuengling and the others weren't considered to be craft brewers in 2013.

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan

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