Sep 20, 2022 - Food and Drink

Mixed rebound for Massachusetts craft beer in 2021

Illustration of a mug of beer, with a sad face in the foam
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some of Massachuertts' largest craft breweries rebounded while others lost ground in 2021, a year after the pandemic crippled the industry.

The state of beer: Sam Adams brewer Boston Beer Company isn't exactly what anyone would call a "craft" brewer, but they're still the state's largest independent beer maker, with over 1.5 million drinks sold in 2021.

  • BBC was the state's fastest-growing craft brewery with a 7% increase in sales, according to an exclusive Axios analysis of data from the Brewers Association.
  • The state's number two brewery, Harpoon, lost 16% of its sales compared to 2021.

Some smaller brewers did well last year, like Jack's Abby (up 10%) and Nightshift (up 6%.)

  • But Tree House Brewery was down 4% and Lord Hobo saw a 6% decline.
  • In 2021, Mass. saw four breweries close and 14 open, the data shows.

The big picture: The craft beer industry grew by 8% in 2021, while the overall market moved up 1%. Massachusetts had two breweries (Boston Beer and Harpoon) 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.

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 who don't meet the definition of independent.

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

  • Inflation on 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."

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