America’s fastest-growing “craft” beer is made by the world’s biggest brewer

Not at all imposing.
Not at all imposing.
Image: Reuters/Francois Lenoir
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

A Belgian-style wheat beer by the name of Shock Top is the fastest growing craft beer in the US, according to Moody’s. Production of Shock Top surged by 64% between 2011 and 2012, according to data the ratings firm recently collected.


For the record, Shock Top’s growth comes off a comparatively low base. Pennsylvania-based DG Yuengling is the largest craft beer in the US, according to Moody’s. It rolled out 3.3 million barrels in 2012, capturing 16% of the craft beer market share.

It should also be noted that Shock Top isn’t a concoction that some regional brewer came up with. The beer was launched by Brazilian-Belgian brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer by sales, in 2006 as a direct answer to Blue Moon, which marked big beer’s first major foray into the craft beers sector. (Blue Moon is made by MillerCoors, a joint venture of two of AB Inbev’s global rivals.)

As a result, some question whether it is even fair to call Shock Top a “craft beer.” The Brewers’ Association, a craft beer industry group, says these kinds of beers are more accurately described as “crafty,” because of what it says is the less-than-upfront way they’re are marketed to consumers.

But the line between craft and corporate is getting even more blurry, as beer giants have embarked on a buying binge of small regional breweries. AB Inbev acquired Chicagoland regional brewer Goose Island in 2011, and just this month said it would buy Blue Point Brewing, which has a strong following in and around New York. The plan is pretty simple: Use AB InBev’s distribution horsepower to get higher-margin craft beer in front of more consumers. If Goose Island is any indication, it might work well: Sales of the brand surged 70% last year by volume, according to the most recently available data.