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TheStreet Open House

10 Biggest Small Beer Brewers in the U.S.

Stocks in this article: BREWSAM

4. Mark Anthony Brands (Mike's Hard Lemonade)
Seattle
2012 production:
1.425 million barrels

We warned you that Beer Marketer's Insights didn't play favorites. This is a flavored malt beverage line owned by a Canadian wine company, but its effects on the beer industry and the alcoholic beverage industry in general trump its beer credentials. A recent Nielsen (NLSN) survey found that Millennials, women and just about everyone but white men are more likely to pick up a flavored malt beverage than they are to knock back a craft beer. Why? Because Mike's Hard Lemonade doesn't berate its drinkers for enjoying a refreshing beverage that tastes like fruit. It doesn't imply that they should be having a "real" drink instead or insist that adding a fruit flavor to a beverage with alcohol in it is "everything that's wrong with this country."

Instead of snickering at someone drinking a raspberry wheat beer or muttering about how brewing blueberries and watermelon into beer are equivalent to putting a lime on a light lager -- it isn't, at all -- the folks behind Mike's Hard Lemonade just put out a whole bunch of sweet flavors and watched their production ramp up from 835,000 barrels just five years ago.

While snooty, insecure brewers and their sycophants could just laugh off Mike's and the like a few years ago, now they have to approach it as a real threat. Mike's has expanded into the hard cider market that is already taking a large, gender-equitable gulp out of the beer market. It's also getting into the beer business by experimenting with a line of shandies, which MillerCoors has already found success with thanks to its Leinenkugel's brand. Mike's Hard Lemonade is making a large, diverse group of friends that should be making the brewers below it nervous. That they and their fans would rather insult Mike's in the slam books than take a lesson from it and offer drinkers something they might actually want speaks volumes about how long it will take to clear up some of "craft" beer's demographic difficulties.

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