True Romance: New Glarus Gives a New Meaning to Brand Loyalty

If you’re deep in the weeds or thick in the mash or whatever the appropriate idiom would be for someone who thinks about beer too much, you’re likely familiar with New Glarus. The Wisconsin brewery is a unique snowflake in the industry as one of the largest brewers in the country (#16 on the Brewers Association list) … and widely beloved … yet only sells its beer in its home state.

In 2016, the brewer sold 214,000 barrels … only in Wisconsin. To put that in comparison, New Glarus last year sold *more* than Oskar Blues (201,000 barrels), which is distributed nationwide. Or just a touch more than 21st Amendment and Rogue *combined*. Since 2010, New Glarus as grown production 133%, going from 91,937 barrels to 214,000.

So of course they’re going to start selling more. Per Brewbound, New Glarus is about to embark on scaling up, set to reach a future max of 400,000 barrels.

“Did I envision a 400,000 barrel brewery? Hell no,” New Glarus founder and president Deb Carey told Brewbound of the $12 million investment. “We thought we’d be an 8,000 or 15,000 barrel brewery.”

15,000 barrels? How quaint.

This all got me thinking about doing some silly, uneducated math. The best kind.

If all this beer is only being sold in Wisconsin, how much New Glarus are Badger State residents drinking? Let’s go to the numbers:

  • Last estimates for 21 and over population was 3,751,033…
  • And if we use a baseline of 43% (national average) for the number of people who prefer to drink beer…
  • We have 1,612,944 beer drinkers in the state of Wisconsin…
  • And New Glarus sold 214,000 barrels (6,634,000 gallons) of beer in Wisconsin in 2016…
  • And Wisconsin residents consumed 36.2 gallons of beer annually per capita in most recent estimates…
  • So the 21 and over population could have drank 4.1 gallons of New Glarus in 2016…
  • Which means that an average of 11.3% of annual beer consumption per Wisconsin of-age resident was New Glarus beer.

That final number is most certainly *not* accurate – there are lots of people that travel to Wisconsin to buy New Glarus beer or Wisconsinites that share it with non-residents, but still. It’s fun to imagine. Even if we knock that number down a bit for all the mules Smokey and the Banditing Spotted Cow across state lines, we’re still talking about the potential for an average of around 10% of Wisconsin beer consumption coming from one single (small and independent!) brewery.

Maybe Scott Walker should reconsider his outreach to in-state businesses.

“We’ve been in a constant state of construction for 25 years,” Carey told Brewbound. “We keep trying to find where we can fit the puzzle pieces.”

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac


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