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Yuengling bests Samuel Adams as top US craft brewer

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Yuengling takes the top spot on the Brewers Associations list of most prolific craft breweries. (AP Photo)

Samuel Adams may have the most patriotic sounding name but it’s been ousted as the top U.S. craft brewer by Pennsylvania’s D.G. Yuengling & Son.

In 2013, Boston Beer Co., which brews Samuel Adams beer, shipped 20 percent more barrels than in 2013. But this year, the Brewers Association changed its definition of what can be considered a “craft” brewery, allowing America’s oldest brewery to squeak by the previous winner.

Previously, “traditional” brewers had to use “traditional or innovative brewing techniques,” usually achieved with only malt. But now, brewers can use additives like corn, rice and syrup to enhance brew flavors. Yuengling uses corn so it was not previously considered a contender.

Though the association did not release official figures, Yuengling sold more beer by volume than Boston Beer which sold 4.1 million of liquid in 2014, reports USA Today. Though this figure includes malt beverages not counted by the trade group, all breweries must produce fewer than 6 million barrels a year to qualify as “small” or craft.

In 2014, Craft brewers sold almost $19.6 billion in beer, according to data released by the Brewers Association, representing 19 percent of the total U.S. beer market. Production of craft beer is also up. Last year, small brewers produced 22.2 million barrels representing about 11 percent of total beer volume produced in the country.

Anheuser-Busch, Miller-Coors and Pabst hold the top three spots among all brewers, followed by Yuengling and Boston Beer in the fourth and fifth spots respectively.

Several brewers made major leaps from previous years. Founders Brewing Co. is ranked 17 this year, compared to 26 in 2014, while 21st Amendment Brewery moved up to the 41st spot from 50. But some popular breweries like Gordon Biersch, dropped off the competitive list entirely.

"Most of the breweries that dropped off didn't have poor years as much as they didn't have quite as great a year as everyone else in the Top 50," Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, told USA Today. "Given the rate at which many of these breweries are expanding, flat or even slightly increased sales mean you drop down the list."

Top 20 Craft Breweries in U.S. 2015

1) D. G. Yuengling and Son, Inc. (Pottsville, Pa.)

2) Boston Beer Co. (Boston)

3) Sierra Nevada Brewing Co (Chico, Calif.)

4) New Belgium Brewing Co. (Fort Collins, Colo.)

5) Gambrinus (Shiner, Texas)

6) Lagunitas Brewing Co. (Petaluma, Calif.)

7) Bell's Brewery, Inc. (Galesburg, Mich.)

8) Deschutes Brewery (Bend, Ore.)

9) Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, Calif.)

10) Minhas Craft Brewery (Monroe, Wis.)

11) Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

12) Duvel Moortgat USA (Kansas City, Mo. & Cooperstown, N.Y.)

13) Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (Milton, Del.)

14) Matt Brewing Co. (Utica, N.Y.)

15) Harpoon Brewery (Boston)

16) Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (Paso Robles, Calif.)

17) Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, Mich.)

18) SweetWater Brewing Co (Atlanta)

19) New Glarus Brewing Co. (New Glarus, Wis.)

20) Alaskan Brewing Co. (Juneau, Alaska)