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Sizing up craft brewers

Rick Bonino

Brewers Association graphic

Washington may have the second most craft breweries of any state, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the new list of largest craft brewers in the country.

No Washington breweries were among the top 50 based on sales in 2015, according to the annual report released Tuesday by the Brewers Association. Oregon, which ranks fourth in total breweries, had four in the top 40.

While Washington breweries may be numerous, they tend to be smaller and more focused on their local markets. The state ranks 12th in overall craft beer production, while Oregon is sixth.

And Washington’s two largest brewers – Redhook and Elysian – aren’t recognized as craft by the Brewers Association because they’re not independently owned. Anheuser-Busch has a partial interest in the Craft Brew Alliance, which includes Redhook, Widmer, Kona and others, and bought Elysian outright last year.

A few of the new Top 50 will be dropping off the craft list next time around because of buyouts. Those include sixth-ranked Lagunitas; red-hot Ballast Point, which surged from 31st in the previous list all the way up to No. 11; Breckenridge, at No. 47, and Four Peaks, at No. 49.

Among Oregon craft breweries, Deschutes ranked eighth nationally, while Full Sail was 31st, Rogue was 34th and Ninkasi was 36th.

The top six were unchanged from the 2014 list: Yuengling, Boston Beer (Samuel Adams), Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Gambrinus and Lagunitas. Bell’s was 7th, Minhas was 9th and Stone was 10th.   

Among all breweries, craft or not, Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and Pabst were again the top three, followed by Yuengling and Boston Beer.

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