Chances are that when a Minnesotan had a cold one last year, the person drank an Anheuser-Busch product. But if the drinker chose a Minnesota brew, it was likely a Grain Belt or Pig's Eye brand.
Budweiser, Michelob and Busch accounted for a market-leading 1.37 million barrels of brands. Minnesota Brewing, which makes Grain Belt and Pig's Eye products, shipped 62,357 barrels in 11 months last year.
St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch padded its lead over Miller Brewing Co. by capturing 39.4 percent of the state's beer consumption, an increase of more than 2 percentage points from 1998.
According to annual figures from the Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association, the Bud family of beers in Minnesota grew in popularity from 1.29 million barrels in 1998. One barrel is the equivalent of 13.77 cases.
''Obviously it was a record year. Every year has just been getting better and better,'' said Jack Stevenson, vice president of sales for Thorpe Distributing Co., which is a Bud wholesaler in Medina.
As recently as 1995, Milwaukee-based Miller dominated beer sales in Minnesota. But Bud eclipsed Miller in 1996 and has widened its lead ever since.
Stevenson credited Anheuser-Busch's national advertising campaign for consistently driving demand.
In Minnesota last year, ads for Budweiser and Bud Light were especially effective. Thorpe said Minnesota was the second-best state for the flagship Budweiser brand in terms of percentage growth last year.
According to the report, Minnesota beer shipments totaled 3.48 million barrels in 1999, 271 fewer than were shipped in 1998.
For Minnesota breweries, 1999 was a year of mixed results. Minnesota Brewing Co., the St. Paul maker of Grain Belt and Pig's Eye brands, suffered a decline in shipments while officials concentrated their efforts on saving the company from financial collapse by building an ethanol plant and taking on production contracts from other beverage companies.
According to figures from the Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association, Minnesota Brewing shipments -- excluding May -- fell from 101,578 in 1998. May beer sales were left out of the annual report because of a communication problem.
Summit Brewing Co., the state's second-largest brewery, reported a 21.5 percent increase in Minnesota shipments last year. The surge to 37,468 barrels from 30,840 barrels in 1998, came in the first full year of production in Summit's new $10 million brewery overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Paul.
''It was a pretty impressive year considering 1999 was really a year of transition,'' Summit founder and President Mark Stutrud said. ''We showed a small net profit for the year at a time when our fixed costs increased by six-fold.''
In New Ulm, August Schell Brewing Co. shipped 11,272 barrels last year, up 8.3 percent from 1998. In Minneapolis, Page Brewing Co. enjoyed a 54.6 percent increase from a 1998 base of 5,749 barrels.
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