By the Numbers: The Rise and Decline of Triangle-Area Breweries

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Raleigh's Trophy Brewing Co. has seen a steady incline in production since 2016.

By Dathan Kazsuk

There's been a huge explosion of new breweries across the U.S. and North Carolina. In 2017, our state alone was home to 56 new breweries according to the NC Beer Guys brewery map. So to say it's an explosion is an understatement.

And with another 26 slated to open in the Triangle in the near future, this state is really starting to become over-saturated with breweries. Though we haven't seen a lot of closing due to this over-population of suds, we might be seeing less production from some of these breweries.

Last year, Triangle Business Journal put together its inaugural "Largest Triangle Breweries" list based on barrel production in 2016. The top 5 should come to no surprise last year, as Lonerider, Aviator, Big Boss, White Street and Fullsteam were on the top. The 2017 numbers came out this past week, and there were a few surprises. So let's take a look at the top 25. These numbers were given to TBJ by the breweries themselves or by help of the N.C. Brewers Guild.

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  1. Lonerider Brewing Co. – 20,000 barrels (up 5.2% from 2016)

  2. Aviator Brewing Co. – 20,000 barrels (up 76.4% from 2016)

  3. Fullsteam – 7,911 barrels (up 40.1% from 2016)

  4. White Street Brewing Co. – 7,000 barrels (down 6.6% from 2016)

  5. Big Boss – 6,500 barrels (down 40 percent from 2016)

  6. Raleigh Brewing Co. – 6,000 barrels (up 9% from 2016)

  7. Carolina Brewery – 4,305 barrels (down 24.9% from 2016)

  8. Deep River Brewing Co. – 4,211 barrels (up 5.3% from 2016)

  9. Trophy Brewing Co. – 4,200 barrels (up 68% from 2016)

  10. Lynnwood Brewing Concern – 4,000 barrels (up 6.66% from 2016)

  11. Carolina Brewing Co. – 3,000 barrels (down 25% from 2016)

  12. Double Barley Brewing Co. – 2,000 barrels (down 11.1% from 2016)

  13. Ponysaurus – 2,000 barrels (no change)

  14. Bond Brothers – 1,984 barrels (up 65.3% from 2016)

  15. Crank Arm – 1,850 barrels (up 23.3% from 2016)

  16. Bombshell – 1,800 barrels (was not on the list in 2016)

  17. Brueprint Brewing – 1,650 barrels (was not on the list in 2016)

  18. Gizmo Beer Works – 1,593 barrels (up 46.1% from 2016)

  19. Top of the Hill – 1,200 barrels (down 20% from 2016)

  20. Mystery Brewing Co. – 1,200 barrels (down 14.3% from 2016)

  21. Clouds Brewing – 841 barrels (up 10.6% from 2016)

  22. Nicklepoint Brewing – 800 (no change)

  23. Brewery Bhavana – 750 barrels (was not on the list in 2016)

  24. Steel String Brewing – 680 barrels (up 63% from 2016)

  25. Bull City Burger – 550 barrels (was not on the list in 2016)

There were a total of three breweries in 2016 that fell off the list in 2017: YesterYears, Neuse River and Compass Rose. And replacing them on the 2017 list were Bombshell, Brüeprint and Brewery Bhavana.

What do these numbers tell me? Just from my observation, the ones that are making a name for themselves are continuing to grow – Trophy Brewing, Bond Brothers and Bhavana – who in their first year-plus, have already produced 750 barrels.

Breweries that have a lot of cans or 6-packs sitting around in places like Harris Teeter and Food Lion have seen a small decrease in production, in the likes of White Street, Carolina Brewery and Carolina Brewing Company. This decline might be because they sit on the shelves for a long period of time and distributors aren't picking up more refill orders.

The two big stand outs on this list is Aviator, who went from 11,000 barrels in 2016 to almost double in 2017 to 20,000 barrels. This more than likely stems from the new $4 million production facility. But the biggest surprise is from Raleigh's Big Boss Brewing Company. In 2016 the brewery had 11,000 barrels, dropping a whopping 40 percent in 2017 to just 6,500 barrels. 

For some of these breweries the numbers may continue to dwindle with more breweries coming to the Triangle. The over population of breweries means the desaturation of brew made – I would only assume.

What are your thoughts on this list? What are some of the trends you see? Be sure to comment below.