Sep 15, 2022 - News

California's top craft breweries saw mixed results in 2021

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

California's largest craft breweries saw mixed results in 2021, a year after the pandemic shut down bars and taprooms and crippled the industry.

The state of beer: For breweries that produced at least 5,000 barrels in 2021, Farmers Brewing Co. in Princeton (30 miles south of Chico) was the state's fastest growing with a 140% increase in sales, according to an exclusive Axios analysis of data from the Brewers Association.

  • San Jose's Gordon Biersch — the fourth largest craft brewer in California, according to the dataset — also saw notable growth, increasing its production by 52% in 2021.
  • 21st Amendment Brewery, which produces its beer in San Leandro and has a brewpub on 2nd street in the city, saw a 21% decline in sales.
  • In 2021, California saw 26 breweries close and 48 open, the data shows.

The big picture: The craft beer industry grew by 8% in 2021, while the overall market moved up 1%. California had seven breweries among the nation's top 50 largest.

Between the lines: The annual data — published for its members in the New Brewer journal and analyzed by Axios Denver reporter John Frank — 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 is 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 hard seltzers.
  • One clear pandemic recovery indicator is, 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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