Craft Beer: How Big is Too Big?


What is “craft beer”? The Brewers Association defines a craft brewer as “small, independent and traditional”—in this case, small is defined as producing 6 million barrels of beer or less annually. Still seems big, doesn’t it? We’ve mused before about how Sam Adams seems to skew the numbers. Now FiveThirtyEight has an unsurprisingly detailed and data-heavy look at how the Boston Beer Company fits into the world of craft beer.

[Boston Beer Co. founder Jim] Koch often refers to his beer company as the “tallest pygmy,” and its sales, relative to the largest beer companies and the largest craft breweries, tell the same tale. Look at the biggest Big Beer, and Sam Adams is still very small. Look at the biggest craft breweries, however, and Sam Adams looks like a behemoth.

Dig into the data here. Personally, I’d never call Sam Adams a craft beer in any real sense. But it is usually the best choice available at an airport bar, which is not to be sneezed at. Never fly sober.