It's not unusual for people who enjoy the taste of beer to envy those
who make their living brewing malt-flavored alcoholic beverages.
Based on the overall growth of Maine breweries last year, even people who don't enjoy the flavor of beer might wish they were in the Maine beer business.
According to data recently obtained from the Maine Department of Public Safety's Liquor Licensing and Inspection Unit, output by Maine breweries in 2012 increased by more than 20 percent for the third year in a row. Over a three-year period, from the end of 2009 through 2012, beer production by Maine breweries has increased from 4.1 million gallons to 7.9 million, or by more than 90 percent.
"It's definitely growing like crazy," Dee Dee Germain of Portland's Allagash Brewing Company said Monday. "It's kind of a thing here [in Maine]."
In 2010, the amount of beer produced by Maine breweries increased by 20 percent, from 4.1 million gallons the previous year to nearly 5 million. The following year, statewide beer production increased 30 percent, from 4.97 million gallons to nearly 6.5 million.
In 2012, all but one of the 13 largest breweries in the state saw their production rates increase from the prior year.
Because Maine is a small state, Germain said, the growth in craft beer brewing is relatively more significant in Maine which, with 33 breweries, ranks fifth in the country with one brewery for every 40,000 residents, according to the national Brewers Association. All, or nearly all of the state's breweries, are members of the Maine Brewers' Guild, she added.
"I think it's great," Germain said of the growth, camaraderie and competition in the state's craft beer industry. "It makes all of us want to make better beer."
Shipyard, the largest brewer in Maine, produced nearly 5 million gallons of beer in Maine in 2012, an increase of about 900,000 gallons or 22 percent over the previous year. Allagash, Maine's second-largest brewer, increased production by 36 percent in 2012 to 1.4 million gallons.
The large brewer that did not increase production in 2012, Gritty McDuff's, basically held even at around 315,000 gallons total at its three locations with an overall decrease of less than 1 percent.
Eight other breweries in Maine, with 2012 production levels ranging from 26,000 gallons to 202,000 gallons, had output increases between 16 percent and 63 percent. Those breweries are Atlantic Brewing in Bar Harbor, Baxter Brewing in Lewiston, Island Brewing of Saco, Kennebunkport Brewing, Maine Beer Co. in Freeport, Peak Organic in Portland, Sebago Brewing in Gorham, and Sea Dog, which has locations in Bangor, South Portland and Topsham.
These increases stand in crisp contrast to Maine sales of non-Maine beers. Of the 10 out-of-state brewers that had the highest sales in Maine last year, only two -- Boston Beer Co. and Canada's Labatt -- had double-digit percentage increases. Boston Beer pumped up its Maine sales by 43 percent, from 1.3 million to 1.9 million, while Labatt boosted its Maine sales by 12 percent, growing from 213,000 to 239,000.
Anheuser Busch, the largest brewer in the country, sold just more than 16 million gallons of beer in Maine last year, an increase of only 1.3 percent. Sales of Miller and Coors both decreased in Maine while other nationally sold
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