More Craft Breweries than ever means some breweries sales are declining
Oregon breweries’ growth and decline can be tracked via the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s sales numbers for taxable barrels. As 2015 comes to a close, we look back at how our Oregon breweries have done by their local sales numbers, which indicate which breweries are growing and which ones are struggling to keep up. Though there may not be many breweries closing, certainly many are in decline or struggling for relevancy as a new school of breweries take their place.
The OLCC tracks the taxable barrels sold by each brewery in state, so that accounts for how much beer they brewed and sold in-state but not what went out of state. These numbers don’t perfectly reflect a brewery’s full sales picture, especially for some of the larger breweries that make their products available across the country. However, I believe that “local” sales and numbers are a good basis for any brewery’s success, especially as more people turn to supporting their local businesses that are independently owned.
Here is a look at the most noteworthy breweries and numbers in the top 25 of Oregon breweries, with each brewery’s ranking in Oregon taxable barrels from October 2015 (as recent as a report as is available) compared to the same time in 2014, and even further back in some cases.
Deschutes Brewery is the new #1
Deschutes appears to have become the #1 selling Oregon brewery, topping longstanding #1 Widmer/Craft Brew Alliance. The numbers are strange, however, because both CBA’s and Deschutes’s annual numbers are down compared to last year, which leads us to believe they are increasingly sending more beer out of state. Widmer is down about 17,000 barrels since the same time last year! While Deschutes is down about 5,000 barrels from last year, it has still topped Widmer by a relatively decisive 10,000 barrels since this time last year. Of course, CBA also includes Redhook and Kona, which also have brewering facilities elsewhere, so the company’s numbers are among the most deceiving. Deschutes has been pushing into new distribution territories quickly, though, and is looking to open an east coast production facility, so I expect it to remain on top. Also keep in mind these numbers don’t include the output of Deschute’ss two brewpubs in Portland and Bend.
Ninkasi Brewing on the Decline
#3 Ninkasi Brewing has soared to become the 3rd largest brewery in Oregon, but its recent in-state sales are declining big time, with just 2,173.35 barrels sold in Oregon in October 2015 compared to 3,996.10 in the same month in 2014. On the more positive side, the brewery’s overall production in Oregon is up a couple thousand barrels, but if these monthly low numbers continue you may see that dropping fast in 2016.
It’s hard to say what’s happening here, but Ninkasi is not known for distributing widely out of state, so these numbers are even more worrisome. This does explain why Ninkasi has recently decided to expand distribution and refresh its lineup. But why are sales falling so flat? The only answer seems to be increased competition, with neighbors at Hop Valley Brewing skyrocketing and Oakshire and Falling Sky killing it in Eugene. Every major city in the region now has its own flagship brewery, so I believe more people are drinking local. While Ninkasi still may own Eugene and greater Lane County, the newer, fresher breweries are nipping at its heels while outside markets erode to new locals.
Hop Valley is Kicking Ass
#5 Hop Valley Brewing looks like the biggest mover and shaker of the year, if you do not count 10 Barrel (whose numbers are no longer reported to the OLCC). Hop Valley is reporting 24,492.88 barrels sold in Oregon as of October 2015. That puts it roughly 3,000 barrels more than 10 Barrel did at this same time last year. Pretty impressive, since it does not have any A-B Inbev money.
Portland Brewing Struggling to Keep Up
#4 Portland Brewing seems to be struggling to maintain status with Full Sail Brewing’s incremental growth and Hop Valley’s explosive growth primed to knock the historic brewery out of the top 5. New up and coming breweries like Breakside Brewery and growing established classics like Hopworks may also be keeping it down.
Boneyard Brewing’s Strong Growth
#7 Boneyard Brewing added about 4,000 barrels in growth since last year, and I bet the new production facility has plenty more room to grow. It’s actually quite impressive how much beer Boneyard is putting out of such a small-scale facility. Also, I believe sales are growing in Washington and haven’t stepped out much further, which gives it some room to keep getting bigger with its reputation. It’s funny to think not that long ago this was a relatively unknown brewery, known mostly for its ties to 3 Floyds.
Rogue Ales Bouncing Back
#9 Rogue Ales is starting to bounce back. It has not been a big year for Rogue, but in-state sales are just slightly up rather than falling as they did in 2013. Maybe it was their new Voodoo Doughnut Mango Ale, or the Yard House Collaboration Spruce Tip IP, or the PDX Carpet Ale.
Bridgeport Brewing is having a rough time
At #8, Bridgeport seems like it has been pouring a lot of money into marketing over the last five years and it’s kept the brewery steady and sometimes growing, but the buzz is flat. New releases like Candypeel IPA seem like they may be falling flat (I say that only anecdotally, without stats to support). The brewery’s annual production is down more than 3 thousand barrels and monthly taxable barrels have dipped below 1,000. Bridgeport Brewing also arguably does not have legs outside of Oregon, since it’s so closely tied to the City of Roses. The beer is hard to find even in our neighbors in California and Washington. Bridgeport seems in a struggle to say relevant, similar to the issues that Portland Brewing is having.
Fort George Brewery cracks the Top 10
For the first time, Astoria’s Fort George Brewery has cracked the top 10 of Oregon breweries by in -tate taxable barrels. The brewery grew a respectable nearly 1,500 barrels since 2014 and has been on a steady rise for a while. I also don’t believe it distributes much out of Oregon.
Double Mountain Brewing Holds Steady
#14 Double Mountain Brewing seems to be treading water, barely holding ground to all the new players. The company’s upcoming Portland brewpub could change things, though only incrementally, since it will only be selling and not producing more beer there. With 2 brewpubs and popular taps among Portlanders, the brewery could be self-sustainable, but to keep up it may need to be scouting a production facility.
Hopworks, Worthy, & Breakside Movin on Up
#12 Hopworks Urban Brewing, #11 Worthy Brewing and #10 Fort George Brewery are all slowly climbing the ranks and making it harder for the old guard.
Breakside Brewery One to Watch
At #13, Breakside is just about equal in numbers to Hopworks, but with its quickly rising production should overtake Hopworks, Worthy, and even Fort George to become the 10th largest brewery based on in-state sales. That projection is based on Breakside nearly doubling production from 2014 to 2015 that puts it within shouting distance of Fort George. Unless one of those 3 puts in a new brewery or contract operation, Breakside may double in size again by the end of 2016 to become the new #10.
Three Creeks, Barley Browns, Base Camp and Crux are Rising
#23 Three Creeks Brewing’s new production facility is giving it a significant bump from 36 in Oregon to 23 after almost doubling production in the last year. I imagine things are just ramping up at the new facility, too. Their big jump puts them neck and neck with Baker City Brewing/Barley Browns.
#24 Barley Browns aka Baker City Brewing has been quickly growing ever since winning the gold medal win for Pallet Jack a couple years ago. The brewery has nearly doubled in size since last year and is definitely one to watch.
#25 Base Camp Brewing is also notable for its growth, nearly doubling sales numbers and running neck and neck with Barley Browns and Three Creeks. It also seem to be doing more distro out of state and putting up impressive numbers.
#26 Crux Fermentation Project in Bend is a small operation with big dreams. The brewery has new production space in the works and expanded distribution deals with the largest distributor around. This little big brewery is becoming a big regional player.
I think these numbers show that local sales are becoming even more important, and as the number of breweries grows in each state and region, it will be difficult for larger breweries to keep drinkers interested. In the future, expect to see more drinkers support their local brewpubs and support for out of state brewers to erode, with a few exceptions.