Sep 19, 2022 - Business

Georgia breweries come back strong

Georgia's largest craft breweries
VISUAL: Credit: Data: Brewers Association; Table: Thomas Oide/Axios

Georgia’s largest craft breweries reported a healthy rebound in 2021, a year after the pandemic crippled the industry.

The state of beer: New Realm charted the most growth among the state's craft breweries with a 29% increase in sales, according to an exclusive Axios analysis of data from the Brewers Association.

  • Atlanta-based SweetWater Brewing Co., which produced almost 228,000 barrels, reported no change in sales but remained Georgia’s biggest craft brewery.
  • In 2021, Georgia saw two breweries close and 22 open, the data shows.
  • Georgia is home to 155 breweries, ranking 19th in the country.

The big picture: The craft beer industry grew by 8% in 2021, while the overall market moved up 1%. Georgia placed three breweries — SweetWater, Creature Comforts and Scofflaw — among the nation's top 50 largest.

Between the lines: The annual data — published for its members in the New Brewer journal — is the most comprehensive breakdown of the state's craft beer industry, Axios’ John Frank writes.

Yes, but: Not all craft brewers are represented in the rankings because some do not submit sales and production data to the Colorado-based Brewers Association, the industry's trade group.

  • Our analysis looked at sales from breweries, brewpubs and taprooms, but excluded contract brewers.
  • Also excluded are local breweries that don't meet the definition of independent.

What's next: The association's chief economist Bart Watson, who compiled the data, says 2022 is producing mixed results and growth projected near 4-5%.

  • Inflation affecting the cost of raw goods, particularly grain, is hurting the industry. So is competition from other alcohol products, such as canned cocktails and seltzers.
  • One clear pandemic recovery, he said in a recent industry briefing: "At the brewery sales are stronger and still growing so that's a bright spot."

The bottom line: For the next year, Watson sees an elevated "long-term growth rate … but below [2021] when there was still strong growth bouncing back from those pandemic losses."

John Frank’s thought bubble: Many mid-size regional brewers are still struggling. SweetWater seems to keep customers interested by keeping the beer aisle fresh with new creations and pushing the boundaries.


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