With Boston Beer Co. sales reaching an all-time high Friday, Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch is the latest Massachusetts billionaire, according to Bloomberg News.
Boston Beer's sales have doubled in the past year, turning the company into the second-largest American-owned brewery, behind DG Yuengling & Son Inc. In addition to the core Samuel Adams brand, Twisted Tea and Angry Orchard cider make up an increasing part of the company's portfolio. Boston Beer's Alchemy & Science division, a wholly owned subsidiary, recently acquired the Coney Island brand from Shmaltz Brewing.
The size of Koch's company stands in contrast to the general notion that craft beer fills some "other" niche, and that craft beer cannot compete with the big brewers. Koch's record sales come at a time when total American beer sales fell two percent in the first half of 2013.
"The big guys make extraordinary amounts of beer that is clean, consistent, and inexpensive," Koch told me earlier this year. "I can't do that as well. I can't make Coors Light as well as Coors makes it. And their beers are perfectly designed to satisfy 90-something percent of the market. I've always known since the day I started that I was making beer for five percent of the market, maybe now it's up to 10 percent.
"If I try to compete with the big guys, they'll kill me."
With brand expansion and an increased push to market the flagship Boston Lager to a larger audience, Boston Beer seems to be competing just fine, though a lineup increasingly dependent on malt beverages and cider further muddles an already blurry definition of craft beer and what defines a craft brewer. Boston Beer holds a 1.3 percent share of the overall U.S. beer market, just behind Yuengling.