2015: The Year Craft Beer Cashed Out

2015 was the year that cemented the fact that Craft Beer is big business. From acquisitions to Private Equity infusions, we saw cash rushing in and out of what certainly looks like a bubble. 2015 was also the year that we saw the Brewers Association once again loosen the definition of what constitutes craft beer — resulting in Boston Beer Co (Sam Adams’ publicly traded $2.6 billion-dollar parent) losing the title of craft’s biggest brewer to Yuengling.

While there are 4,000-plus craft brewers in America, a handful of not-Macro-but-still-massive brewers account for a huge share of craft beer production in America. When one looks at the Brewers Association’s (contentiously) defined list of craft brewers two facts quickly emerge.

  1. Craft beer is massively concentrated. In 2014, the 10 largest brewers produced 43.91% of all craft beer. The 50 largest brewers produced almost 70% of all craft beer.
  2. Starting in 2014, but really accelerating in 2015, we saw the founders of America’s biggest craft breweries cashing out, selling stakes to Private Equity firms, multi-national macro brewers, or their own employees through ESOPs.

Our infographic below summarizes the major rush for the exits among the fifty largest craft brewers. As you’ll see, whether there is or isn’t a bubble in craft beer, many of the folks with the most to lose (or gain) have already locked in their positions.

INFOGRAPHIC: All The Craft Beer Sales And Investments From 2015