Oregon Beer Sales 2019: Turmoil, Consolidation ... and Growth

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) has released the final full set of numbers for the amount of beer each Oregon brewery sold in Oregon in 2018. The OLCC compiles these numbers each month, and they represent the taxable barrels of beer reported to the agency—and they now weirdly include cider in this file. I have noted in the past that they have certain problems—in particular, they don’t collect Craft Brew Alliance’s totals (no idea why)—but they do offere an apples-to-apples comparison each year of how Oregon’s breweries are doing.

We’ll get to the numbers in a moment so you can see how individual breweries did in a moment, but first let’s look at some of the topline findings. The market for Oregon beer continued to expand in 2018, albeit modestly. Oregon breweries sold just over 666k barrels of beer in-state last year, up from 644k. That’s good news—but as always, it was mixed. The OLCC tracked 256 companies that made a taxable amount of beer or cider last year, but the largest twenty made a whopping 72% of all that beer. In other words, the smallest 236 only sold 28% of the beer.

And here’s the surprising fact: the little breweries’ share shrunk last year—as did the absolute number of barrels. The 236 smallest Oregon breweries sold just 186,700 barrels, just a little less than the top three breweries did. If you stretch the window out over two years, they stay consistent, although another interesting trend emerges: most of the growth over that two-year span happened among the breweries in the middle of the top-20, from the fifth to fifteen-largest.

Below is a table of the top 20 breweries and their growth. Forty percent of the breweries saw growth of 20% or more, but an equal sold less beer in Oregon last year than in 2017. Some breweries have been posting eye-popping growth, keyed by Pelican’s sharp rise. The two foreign-owned “locals,” 10 Barrel (AB InBev) and Hop Valley (MillerCoors) both saw substantial growth yet again—especially the latter. At the top of the list, Deschutes has mostly stopped its precipitous fall, and remains Oregon’s best-selling brewery by quite a hefty margin. Ninkasi has managed to post gains the past two years. The performance of the legacy breweries is mixed. Portland, Full Sail, and BridgePort (now defunct) all saw sharp declines, but Rogue managed to tick upward—and Pelican has been going gangbusters. Here’s the table of the top twenty, and I’ll add a few final comments going out.

For all the gloom and doom people are feeling about the industry, the numbers are pretty solid. Oregon continues to grow, though it’s hard for little players. Older breweries are clearly at a disadvantage, and yet a number have managed to stop their declines or even grow a bit. And finally, the most active group are those falling in that 10-25,000-barrel range. They have the footprint to build their brands, but still have some room for growth in the state. For several years now it’s been hard for breweries to sell more than 50,000 barrels in the state, and I would expect that to continue.

Jeff Alworth6 Comments