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10 Biggest Small Beer Brewers in the U.S.

Stocks in this article: BREW SAM

3. North American Breweries
Rochester, N.Y.
2012 production:
2.715 barrels

Even if this umbrella company and its brands were considered craft, it wouldn't do the craft beer world any favors. This mess of a beer company is the result of Magic Hat's acquisition of Pyramid Brewing, KPS Capital Partners' acquisition of those breweries and others and Costa Rican food and beverage company Florida Ice & Farm's acquisition of all of it last year.

Even if stripped down to its most craft parts, North American Breweries would still have its issues. Back in 2008, Magic Hat and Pyramid combined produced 336,000 barrels of their product. Last year they put out 337,000 barrels. That's only after production slipped as low as 322,000 barrels in 2009. With Magic Hat and Pyramid largely stripped of the brands, styles, personalities and owners that made them beloved in Vermont, the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere, they've become the equivalent of Costco's (COST) generic Kirkland "craft beer" cases.

The sad fact is that those brands don't even do most of the heavy lifting for NAB. That task falls to the Genesee, Labatt's and Dundee brands cherished -- or at least drunk for a reasonable price -- by Western and Central New Yorkers. Those regional favorites still account for roughly 2.4 million barrels of production, which is more than double the output of all but one "craft" brewer in the U.S. It pushes NAB into Beer Marketer's Insights' "major supplier" category, but so what? Its nearly 1% uptick in production last year was better than MillerCoors or Diageo-Guinness could muster, and it came on the backs of supposedly bland, old brands with no creativity or identity.

The fact is that those core brands have more presence and loyalty on their home turf than Pyramid does in brewery-saturated Washington or Magic Hat does with small-brew darlings such as Alchemist's Heady Topper and Hill Farmstead's brews right down the road. In this industry, that's worth quite a bit.

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