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The country's third-largest microbrewer, Seattle's Redhook Brewery, last week reported its best quarter in two years.

Sales of the company's six brands rose 6% in the third quarter to 53,400 barrels, compared with 50,400 the year earlier. The increase is notable in a specialty segment that saw little growth last year and is expected to have stagnant sales over the next decade.

Redhook's previous highs were 59,000 barrels in third-quarter 1996 and 56,400 in second-quarter 1997, CEO Paul Shipman said, adding that things were looking up for the segment.

"We think good things are ahead for us -- maybe," he said. "Consumers are starting to get renewed confidence in the microbrews . . . after a period in which there was proliferation and uneven offerings."

Rebelling at paying $7 for a six-pack of untested beer, observers said, consumers shied away from the myriad offerings and opted for established imports such as Corona and Heineken.

The publicly owned brewer, in which Anheuser-Busch Cos. has a 25% interest, markets beer for about $6.50 a six-pack in every state except Oklahoma.

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