7. Craft Brew Alliance
(BREW - Get Report)
Brothers Kurt and Rob Widmer founded Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Ore., in 1984. Paul Shipman and Gordon Bowker first started Redhook in Seattle back in 1981. Because they decided to join forces in 2008 and give Anheuser-Busch a 32.2% stake in their newly formed company in exchange for access to its distribution system, though, they were cast out of "craft" heaven by the pearly gatekeepers at the Brewers Association. That's a real shame, as their production has only increased from 571,000 barrels in 2008 even after the sale of one-time Craft Brew Alliance member Goose Island to A-B. The company has also finally set up its brands in a way that makes sense. Widmer Brothers is still the high-potency, experimental craft label. Redhook, which has been rudderless since Shipman's departure, has found new life as a gateway beer for the sports-loving masses -- teaming with sports radio host Dan Patrick, chicken-and-big-TV casual dining chain
Buffalo Wild Wings
and the supporters group for Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders on signature beers and promotions. Its Hawaii-based Kona Brewing brand aims right at casual beer drinkers who might otherwise gravitate to a Corona or Red Stripe, while its Omission gluten-free beers and Square Mile Ciders are geared toward drinkers that the beer world tends to leave behind. If the gatekeepers considered the Craft Brew Alliance "craft," it would be the fourth-largest craft brewer in the country. Since it doesn't make the cut, however, its brewers will just have to make do with increasing popularity and a bunch of new friends in corners that craft beer either ignores or outright dismisses.