Everybody to the limit: Breweries above and below the 50,000-gallon mark

As breweries continue to pop up around the state, distributors are starting to pay attention. That’s partly because of state law that allows breweries to distribute their own beer, up to 50,000 gallons of annual output.

Many of the state’s breweries got close to that mark last year and some are growing enough to make self-distribution impractical. The Maine Brewers’ Guild doesn’t have figures available for how many breweries have signed on with distributors.

That question is in the background of my story out today. There’s one way of taking a look at that, however, by asking: how many Maine breweries are close to hitting that mark?

The best data available from the state includes year-end figures from 2013. What we know beyond that is that 35 of the breweries operating in 2013 planned to increase production by a collective 36 percent this year.

It’s worth noting that breweries are licensed by location, not by corporate entity. That means each Sea Dog brew pub shows up separately here, even though it’s a Shipyard Brewing Co. brand. Most of those small dots, however, are individual breweries.

If you look at the lower graph, you can see that most of the action in Maine’s beer scene is among the small guys, crowded in around a median output of about 8,100 gallons in 2013 (again, that’s skewed a little by what we’ll call distributed brewing, like with Sea Dog).

Shipyard, like the sun in scale renderings of the solar system, is the big one at the end.

Breaking out the 2013 data for those breweries that might be key targets for a distributor (if they’ve not signed a deal already), here are the breweries that put out between 15,000 and 49,999 gallons of beer last year.

I’d note, as Sean Sullivan at the Maine Brewers’ Guild said, that each brewery’s decision around distribution depends on their ultimate goals — some like meeting with the people that will be pouring their beer, some want to focus their efforts on making beer and not on shipping it and some just want to ramp up production.

But who will take the lead on craft beer distribution in the state — whether a startup like Jim O’Brien’s or existing distributors that are adapting to the new market — is a story to come. And how they will adapt to potential changes in the state’s franchise laws will also be a factor.

While we don’t know who it is, we can say that it probably is fhqwhgads:

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.