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A Short History and Production Statistics of the Beer Industry for Railfans

With all of the beer being sold I would have thought that there would be more data on the internet. Here is the little I have found in the way of history and stats.

Anheuser-Busch makes over 45% of the beer sold in the United States, Miller Brewing 21.8%, Coors 10.4%, Stroh 7.4%, G. Heileman 5.3%. Beer sales have been relatively flat since the mid-1980s. In 2007, total U.S. beer sales were 212.9 million barrels. Anheuser-Busch made 105 million barrels, Miller 40.2 million barrels, and Coors 24.3 million barrels. From the breweries, beer is generally shipped in insulated boxcars to wholesale distribution centers. From there the beer is transered to trucks for delivery to retailers. The number of distributors has decreased from 5,500 in 1995 to around 2,000 in 2005.

Anheuser-Busch was the first brewer to apply the new technology of artificial refrigeration to the brewing industry in 1881. Combined with the introduction of pasteurization to the brewing industry, which significantly expands the shelf life of beer, Anheuser-Busch developed a national system of beer production to reduce shipping costs and ensure quicker delivery of products. Anheuser-Busch produced just over one million barrels per year in 1901. It produced over ten million barrels per year in 1964.

By the early 1950s, the days of the regional brewer were beginning to wane. Since the repeal of prohibition, the trend in the brewing industry was to increase production while expanding markets. Merging of breweries to form larger plants or the creation of chain breweries were on a rapid increase. Large corporations such as Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, and Schlitz began to squeeze smaller regional brewers out the market. Between 1949 and 1958, over 185 breweries ceased operations or sold out to larger operations. Many large breweries began to move west, primarily to California. In 1954, Anheuser-Busch opened a new $20,000,000 plant in Los Angeles. Hamms, Schlitz, Falstaff, and Pabst built or bought out smaller operations in California. Carling Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio bought the Arizona Brewing Company in October 1964. Anheuser-Busch has 12 breweries in the US. The first Anheuser-Busch brewery outside of St. Louis opened in Newark, N.J., in 1951. Anheuser-Busch opened a brewery in Houston, TX in 1966 with a capacity of 900,000 barrels a year. The plant in Columbus, OH began production in 1968 and by the end of the 1980 was producing over six million barrels per year. Production at the Merrimack, NH brewery began in 1970, with a capacity of 1.8 million barrels per year. The other breweries are in Baldwinsville, NY; Cartersville, GA; Fort Collins, CO; Jacksonville, FL; Williamsburg, VA; Fairfield, and Los Angeles, CA. The St. Louis brewery produces about 14 million barrels of beer per year.

In 1992, the US beer industry produced & sold 2.62 billion cases (5.89 billion gallons) of beer. The world's largest single-site brewery was Coors Brewing in Golden, CO at 272 million cases.

In 2001, the US shipped 200,146,800 barrels of beer. A barrel holds 31 gallons. Shipment data represents shipments from breweries to 2,200 beer wholesalers in these states. Looks like California yuppies are thirstier than Texas cowboys.

AZ 4,433,682
CA 20,659,122
CO 3,564,175
IL 9,165,381
IA 2,295,235
KS 1,756,918
NV 2,142,150
OR 2,469,800
TX 18,111,647

Santa Fe freight train with insulated boxcars for loading beer

Ahead of the caboose and covered hopper are four empty insulated boxcars returning to the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO.



Falstaff purchased Berghoff Brewing Co. of Ft. Wayne in 1953. This became the last Falstaff brewery when it closed in 1990. Falstaff purchased the San Jose Plant from Pacific Brewing and Malting in 1952. This plant closed in 1973. The Falstaff brewery in Omaha was closed in 1985. The Falstaff brewery in New Orleans was closed in 1980. The Falstaff brewery in Galveston was closed in 1981. Falstaff purchased the old Burgermeister brewery in San Francisco in 1972, it closed in 1978. The Falstaff brewery in El Paso was closed in 1978.

Olympia Brewing

The Capital Brewery was constructed in 1896 in Tumwater, WA. The Capital Brewing Company became the Olympia Brewing Co. in 1902 with the famous "It's the Water" motto. It sold the plant to Pabst Brewing Co. in 1983. Miller bought the brewery from Pabst in 1999. The plant closed on July 1, 2003.


Molson of Canada took majority interest in the Rainier brewery in Seattle in 1954. In 1977, Rainier was purchased by G. Heileman. After Heileman filed for bankruptcy in 1991, Rainier became the property of Dallas investment firm, Hicks, Muse and Co. Stroh Brewery Co. purchased the plant in 1996. The plant was closed in 1999.

Pabst Brewing Company

Pabst Brewing started in Milwaukee in 1844 with capacity of only 18 barrels per batch. The company grew and production topped 100,000 barrels a year in 1872. Best Select beer became Pabst Brewing Company in 1889. Pabst opened a new brewery in Peoria, Illinois in 1934. Pabst purchased the Hoffman Beverage Company in Newark, NJ in 1946 and the Los Angeles Brewing Company in California in 1948. Production increased to 3.9 million barrels in 1958, to 10.5 million barrels by 1970, and then to all-time high of 18 million barrels in 1977.

Schlitz Brewing

Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. began in 1849 when George August Krug began brewing beer in the basement of his restuarant. The original company changed the name to Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company in 1856. Production was 139,154 barrels in 1879 and was 6.35 millionbarrels in 1952. It acquired Burgermeister Beer in 1962. It opened a new brewery at Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1970. The plant was 34 acres under one roof with a daily capacity of 17,000 barrels and an annual capacity of 4.4 million barrels. It was the largest brewery ever built at the time. With rail facilities, land for expansion, and cheaper labor in Winston-Salem, it was cheaper to brew in North Carolina and ship the beer 500 miles to New York than it was to brew in the New York City area. The brewery in Brooklyn shipped its last batch of beer in March 1973. That year production was 21.3 million barrels.

After a long strike, the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. was acquired by Stroh Brewing Co. of Detroit on June 10, 1982. The Schlitz Brewery in Longview, TX operated for 35 years and was purchased by Stroh Brewing Co. The building was then used as a distribution warehouse for Corona beer from Mexico. Stroh sold the former Schlitz Tampa brewery to Yuengling Brewery of Pennsylvania in 2000.

Spoetzl Brewery

It was founded back in 1909 in Shiner, Texas. Spoetzl is also the oldest brewery in Texas and is distributed in 41 states. It produced 409,000 barrels.

Lemp Brewing (predecessor of Falstaff Brewing Company) becomes the first to distribute nationally in 1890 using 500 ice bunker reefers.

Advance Beverage Company has a 93,000 square foot distribution center in Bakersfield, CA. It was established in 1971.

Lone Star Brewing - San Antonio started 1884

Pearl Brewing - San Antonio started 1883