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.

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Atlanta.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Atlanta stories

No stories could be found

Atlantapostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Atlanta.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more