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Yuengling Is Now America's Largest Brewery

Beats out Sam Adams for top spot
by The Drink Nation on Jan 18, 2012 in Beer
Yuengling Is Now America's Largest Brewery

How does a company that sells beer in only 14 states have greater shipments than a company with distribution in all 50 states of the union? This is what we wondered upon hearing the news that “America’s oldest brewery” is now also America’s largest brewery. According to year-end estimates released by industry watcher Beer Marketer’s Insights (and reported by Advertising Age), Pottsville, PA-based D.G. Yuengling & Sons now ranks eighth in U.S. market share overall. It is the highest-ranked company that is both American-owned and sells only American-produced brew.

The new figures mean Yuengling – with shipments of 2.5 million barrels in 2011 – has dislodged Boston Beer Co. from the top American-made spot. The Massachusetts-based makers of Sam Adams beer shipped approximately 2.4 million barrels last year, numbers that represent a still-impressive 8% growth for the company; overall beer shipments in the country declined by 1.4%.

Yuengling’s 16.9% year-over-year growth was bolstered by their decision to launch in the Ohio market, one of only 14 states where the lager is available. (After continual expansion, the family-owned company in 1996 decided to pull back and concentrate on local areas, a management strategy echoed in recent down-sizing moves by Delaware’s Dogfish Head.)

By contrast, Sam Adams is available in every part of the country, in some form or another. And the states where Yuengling is available are not by any means those that drink the most beer by volume (that distinction goes to Nevada, followed by New Hampshire and North Dakota). We checked in with Lou Romano, Yuengling’s marketing manager, who pointed to the brand’s low price-point as reason for its high volume sales.

“Yuengling has always followed a pricing strategy on par with premium domestic beer brands (i.e. Bud, Miller, Coors), while Boston Beer has led the charge in the craft category,” he noted, continuing, “We compete with premium domestics, which have the largest volume of beer drinkers as a whole.”

We also reached out to Victory Brewing Company's Bill Covaleski for his opinion.“I'd say Yuengling's strategy of steady concentration on limited markets has been a winning one, affording them deep penetration in markets where their products have resonated with an enthusiastic audience,” he speculated via email.

There’s also the heritage angle. As U.S. appreciation of well-made beer rises, and drinkers begin to care about how their beer is made, the story of the brewery’s 1829 founding and continual family ownership becomes a built-in marketing bonus for Yuengling. After all, Barack Obama recently declared Yuengling his favorite brew.

“The expanding public awareness [of] 'craft' beer... is also... affording older manufacturers like Yuengling access to these burgeoning ‘craft-curious’ consumers.” Covaleski added.  “It's a bit of a feeding frenzy out there, and these savvy companies may exchange this leadership position over the coming years,’ he predicted.
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