April 18, 2013

What Ales You: Shipyard and Allagash make top sellers list

A couple of regional beers dropped off the list: Smuttynose and Narrangansett.

By TOM ATWELL

The National Brewers Association has released its latest list -- based on 2012 sales -- of the top-selling brewers and craft brewers in America, and Maine's two largest brewers are increasing their market share.

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Shipyard ranks 15th in sales for craft brewers and 23rd for all U.S. beer brewers in 2012, and Allagash cracked the top 50 craft beer list, coming in at 48th in the nation in sales. Both breweries are based in Portland.

Courtesy photos

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Shipyard is the No. 15 selling beer in the craft beer category and No. 23 in overall brewers, up from No. 16 in crafts and No. 24 overall last year. Allagash made it to No. 48 on the craft beer list after not appearing on the list last year.

Dee Dee Germain, a brewer and marketing director at Allagash, told me a couple of weeks ago that Allagash has been hovering around No. 50 for several years, sometimes making the top 50 and sometimes missing it. She said sales have grown by 40 percent in the past year.

A couple of regional beers have dropped off the list.

Smuttynose of Portsmouth, N.H., was 47th on the craft beer list last year and is not on this year's list. Narragansett was 50th on the overall list, and is not on it this year. It is not on the craft beer list, because its flagship lager is not an all-malt beer.

Some interesting statistics are that 39 of the top 50 overall brewers are craft brewers, and that craft brewers now make up 6 percent of all beer sales in the United States, a record high.

I HAD BEEN LOOKING forward to trying some beer from Cigar City Brewery in Tampa since November 2011, when I interviewed Joshua Bernstein about his book, "Brewed Awakening," on the burgeoning crop of new craft brewers. Bernstein raved about Cigar City.

Nancy's sister Martha lives in Tampa, and she brought a six-pack of Cigar City Jai Alai IPA to us on a recent visit here. Until recently, Cigar City sold only on draft or in bottles, so she hadn't felt it safe to pack the beer in her luggage before. But with cans, it worked.

The beer is as good as its reputation. It poured a cloudy golden amber color, with about a half-inch head. It has a strong aroma of citrusy hops, and the hops is the most up-front flavor. But this is not just a hops bomb. It has a good bit of biscuity yeast and malt caramel to balance the flavor.

So even though I have been moving away from heavily hopped beers recently, I liked this one.

Martha says it is even better on draft than from the can. Cigar City, incidentally, is not among the top 50 on the craft beer list.

WE ATE at Local 188 last weekend and saw Oxbow Brewing's Funkhaus on the list of offerings. While I have enjoyed every Oxbow I have tried, the Funkhaus gave me some concerns. I wondered if it would overpower the Arctic char that I planned to order.

Funkhaus is described on the company website as a farmhouse IPA with tropical hop notes enhanced by Brettanomyces yeast. It comes in at 7.5 percent alcohol.

The Brett yeast was actually quite mild in this beer, just giving another layer of flavor in the IPA -- which actually had a lot less hops than many IPAs these days. It was a well-rounded, complex beer that went well with the food.

While I entered into new ground with the Funkhaus, I met up with an old friend by having Bunker's Spring Bock. I had this beer last year, and it is still one of the best bocks I have had in a long time.

Back at home, we offered beers to the couple who brought us the Cigar City. We served Atlantic Brewing's Real Ale, Geary's Summer Ale, Maine Beer Co.'s MO and Mean Old Tom, Rising Tide's Daymark, and Bull Jagger's Portland Lager and Baltic Porter.

The visitors were highly impressed with the local offerings.

MARSHALL WHARF Brewing in Belfast announced on Facebook that it is delivering 16-ounce cans of its beer to Boston on Wednesday and challenging all New England breweries to "throw down. Let's help heal Boston with beer!"

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

tomatwell@me.com

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