5. Craft Brew Alliance
Locations: Portland, Ore.; Woodinville, Wash.; Kona, Hawaii; Portsmouth, N.H.
Production in 2013: 723,600 barrels
The Alliance itself has existed only since 2007, but it's the members that hold a special place in American brewing history. Redhook was one of the earliest American craft brewers and among the first in the Pacific Northwest when it opened in Seattle back in 1981. Brothers Kurt and Rob Widmer helped turn Portland, Ore., into Beervana when they opened their Widmer Brothers brewery in 1984. Father and son duo Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa used the Kona Brewing they opened in 1994 to transform Hawaiian beer from a local novelty to a commercial success.
There are a lot of great milestones in there, including Redhook becoming the first bicoastal craft brewer by opening its Portsmouth brewery in 1996, but some of the more recent include building the Omission label of gluten-free beers and breaking into the lucrative cider industry with the regional Square Mile Hard Cider brand. Perhaps the most ingenious, however, was forming the alliance in the first place and using a 32.2% investment from Anheuser-Busch InBev to secure access to that brewer's nationwide distribution system. That cost CBA its "craft" status with the Brewers Association craft beer industry group, but it gave the breweries the security they needed to grow, expand and avoid distribution issues that plague other, smaller craft breweries.
There have been a whole lot of changes -- Redhook partnering with Fox Sports host Dan Patrick and Buffalo Wild Wings, Kona watching its share of the business skyrocket and Widmer Brothers' shift from Hefeweizen-heavy brewhouse to CBA's creative epicenter -- but CBA's sales jumped 7.6% last year and have been rising since the recession. CBA's reach and variety make it an excellent microcosm of the current state of American brewing.