Stopping at your local liquor store to pick up a six-pack of craft beer can be overwhelming. With so many varieties featuring attention-grabbing names and look-at-me labels, you might want to give up and grab a six-pack of the usual. But if you want help finding what’s good, the Brewers Association just released its 2020 Top 50 U.S. craft brewing companies and we’re spotlighting the top 10.
The Brewers Association, a non-for-profit trade organization representing 5,400+ U.S. breweries, based their list on beer sales volume. To be considered a craft brewer by the association, breweries might be small and independent. Small means an annual production of less that 6 million barrels of beer and independent means no more than 25 percent of the brewer is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member. That means no Anheuser-Busch behind the scenes, pulling at the strings.
Because of COVID-19, 2020 was a volatile year for craft breweries. Draft-heavy breweries had a difficult time with many bars and taprooms closed, while brewers with strong packing and distribution systems stepped forward to fill a need for beer.
“The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed where Americans purchased alcohol in 2020,” said Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist.
Based on the Brewers Association list, here are the top 10 most popular craft brewing companies in America. Next time you’re at the store or at a bar, go ahead and try one of their beers. After all, craft beer drinkers know what they like—the numbers don’t lie.
Top 10 Craft Brewing Companies in the U.S.
10. Deschutes Brewery
What started as a small brewpub that made 310 barrels of beer in 1988 now sells more than 225,000 barrels annually. The Bend, Oregon, brewer is known for its signature dark Black Butte Porter, even though it’s now outsold by Fresh Squeezed IPA and Mirror Pond Pale Ale.
9. Stone Brewing
Operating since 1996, Stone has brewing facilities in Escondido, California, and Richmond, Virginia. A robust distribution system means its line of beers is available in all 50 states and more than 40 countries. Pioneers of the West Coast IPA, the brewery is known for the tropical, piney flavors of its Stone IPA.
8. Artisanal Brewing Ventures
Artisanal Brewing Ventures is an umbrella company for like-minded breweries that include Lakewood, NY’s Southern Tier, Downingtown, PA’s Victory. and Brooklyn’s Sixpoint. Southern Tier’s 2XIPA has a doughy sweetness that mixes with flavors of bitter lemon and grapefruit.
7. Bell’s Brewery, Inc.
Founded in 1985 by Larry Bell, this family-owned brewery operates out of Comstock and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Its Two Hearted Ale was rated No.1 by the American Homebrewers Association from 2017 to 2019. The company also owns Upper Hand Brewery in the Upper Peninsula city of Escanaba.
CANarchy is a craft-brewing collective of seven distinct brands: Oskar Blues, Cigar City, Wasatch, Squatters, Perrin, Deep Ellum, and Three Weavers. The collective has 8 manufacturing locations, more than a thousand employees, and shipped 480,000 barrels in 2019. Oskar Blues was one of the first craft breweries to can its beers in 2002, starting with Dale’s Pale Ale.
Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, Gambrinus represents both Shiner Beers in Shiner, Texas, and Trumer Brewery in Berkeley, California. Shiner Bock was first brewed in 1913 and is still (like every Shiner beer) brewed at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas. Opened in 2004, Trumer is a sister brewery to Austria’s Trumer Brauerei.
4. Duvel Moortgat
While the name Duvel might conjure up Belgian blonde ales, it also oversees California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Missouri’s Boulevard Brewing Company, and Cooperstown’s Brewery Ommegang. The beer list includes Firestone Walker’s Double Barrel Ale, Boulevard’s Unfiltered Wheat Beer, and Ommegang’s Abbey Ale.
3. Sierra Nevada
In November 1980, Ken Grossman took his first crack at brewing pale ale in Chico, California. Ten batches later, he found the recipe that would become the iconic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Since then, Sierra Nevada has added Torpedo Extra IPA and Hazy Little Thing IPA to its year-round offerings.
2. Boston Beer Co.
While you may recognize Samuel Adams and its flagship Boston Lager, Boston Beer Co. also represents Dogfish Head, Coney Island, Angel City, and Havana breweries. Founded in 1984 by Jim Koch, Boston Lager was based on a recipe from his great-great grandfather.
1. D.G. Yuengling and Son Inc
The oldest operating brewery in America is also its most popular craft one. Founded in 1829 by German immigrant David G. Yuengling, the Pottsville, Pennsylvania, brewery just celebrated its 190th anniversary. Known for its Traditional Lager and Porter, Yuengling has expanded its range lately with Raging Eagle Mango Beer and Hershey’s Chocolate Porter.