Sep 16, 2022 - Food and Drink

Tennessee craft breweries rebound post-pandemic

A glass of beer
A pint of the Conspiracy fruited IPA at Bearded Iris. Photo: Nate Rau/Axios

Tennessee's largest craft breweries massively rebounded in 2021, a year after the pandemic crippled the industry.

The state of beer: Bearded Iris was Nashville's fastest growing craft brewery in 2021 with a 42% increase in sales, according to an exclusive analysis of Brewers Association data by Axios reporter John Frank.

  • Wiseacre Brewing Co. from Memphis saw 32% growth last year.
  • Yazoo, the godfather of Nashville craft brewing, sold 16,000 barrels and grew by 28% in 2021.
  • Tennessee ranks No. 21 in the nation for number of breweries with 141, according to the data.

The big picture: The craft beer industry grew by 8% in 2021, while the overall market moved up 1%.

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.

  • TailGate Brewery, which rapidly expanded in recent years, is not included in the data. Just this year, TailGate announced new locations in Germantown, Chattanooga and Hendersonville.
  • 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.
Note: Some breweries did not provide data to the Brewers Association; Data: Brewers Association; Table: Thomas Oide/Axios

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

  • Inflation in 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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