Sep 21, 2022 - News

Washington's top craft breweries saw strong rebound in 2021

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

Washington's largest craft breweries rebounded significantly in 2021, a year after the pandemic crippled the industry, with average gains near 10%.

The state of beer: Seven of the state's largest 10 craft breweries saw their sales increase in 2021, according to an exclusive Axios analysis of data from the Brewers Association.

  • Mac and Jack's in Redmond — the state's fast-growing craft brewery that produces at least 5,000 barrels annually — saw sales jump 57%.
  • Georgetown Brewing, meanwhile, reported 25% growth.
  • For the few large breweries that saw a decline, the drop was fairly modest. Seattle's Fremont Brewing, for instance, saw a 2% dip in sales.
  • Statewide, more than twice as many craft breweries opened than closed in 2021, the data shows.

Context: The numbers reflect a big turnaround from a year ago, when only three of Washington's 10 largest craft brewers reported an increase in sales.

The big picture: Nationwide, the craft beer industry grew by 8% in 2021.

  • Only one such establishment in Washington — Georgetown Brewing — placed among the nation's 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 that don't meet the definition of independent, such as those acquired by national or international megabrewers. (This means Seattle's Elysian Brewing, which is now part of Anheuser-Busch, doesn't count).

What's next: The brewers 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 sign of 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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