Georgia breweries come back strong
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  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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