Staying popular in the turbulent beer scene is the challenge facing larger regional breweries like Allagash and Shipyard. Allagash became the largest in-state brewer of beer in 2017 as its production nudged up 4 percent to 2.98 million gallons of beer.

Shipyard’s production in Maine dipped 21.4 percent to 2.87 million gallons, but it still makes the most beer of any Maine company overall. Shipyard moved some of its brewing to Florida, where the brewery has established a local presence with brewpubs and taps at minor league ballparks. The brewer also outsources to other breweries some production of Pumpkinhead, its popular seasonal beer.

Bart Watson, the chief economist for the national Brewers Association, said Shipyard made 3.66 million gallons of beer in 2016 in the U.S. That number dropped to about 3.3 million gallons in 2017, according to a report in Craft Beer News.

Regional brewers like Allagash and Shipyard face a volatile marketplace. Smuttynose, a large regional brewery in New Hampshire, was sold in bankruptcy court in March for $8.25 million.

In that light, Allagash’s 4 percent growth in 2017 was strong, Watson said.

“Allagash has long followed a slower and steadier growth pace, which, in today’s environment, is proving very wise,” Watson said. “Breweries expanded rapidly and through thin distribution streams and now are having to fight very hard. Four percent was very good last year. The regional category only grew 1 percent as a whole.”

Part of the challenge, Watson said, is drinkers have changed the definition of what it means to be a local brewery.

Where brands like Smuttynose and Sam Adams could have been considered local in Maine 10 years ago, they’re not considered local enough now.

“I think it’s a sign of the maturation of the market on the supply side. I think it’s also a reflection of the demand side for local,” Watson said. “People like having that local brewery, both to have a connection with those beers and to have another community gathering place.”

James Patrick can be contacted at 791-6382 or at:

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