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Brewing is a big industry and Boston Beer (NYSE: SAM  ) is the largest player in the craft beer industry, commanding nearly 20% of the craft beer segment and 1.3% of the total U.S. beer market. The company operates in a growing market as The Brewers Association reported mid-year 2013 growth of 15% in dollar sales and 13% in volume for craft beer.

As the craft beer industry has a lot of room to grow, Boston Beer faces competition from Molson Coors Brewing (NYSE: TAP  ) and Constellation Brands (NYSE: STZ  ) . All three companies have had good runs on the Street, but Boston Beer and Constellation Brands have been the biggest outperformers. Let's take a look at each of them.

SAM Chart

SAM data by YCharts

Boston Beer is on a dominating run
Boston Beer's third-quarter results were impressive. Core shipments grew by 29% versus the same quarter in the previous year. On the back of this volume growth, net revenue increased 30% from last year to $216.4 million . Earnings jumped 23.5% versus the same quarter in the previous year to $1.89 per share. Analysts expected earnings of $1.84 per share.

Going forward, full-year 2013 depletions growth is now estimated to be between 21%-24%, up from the previous range of 17%-22%. As explained by Foolish colleague Rich Smith, depletions growth "refers to the rate at which beer, already shipped from a producer like Boston Beer to a distributor, leaves the distributor's warehouse en route to end users i.e., drinkers." So, an increment in this metric is a positive.

The upward revision was attributed to the strong performances of the Samuel Adams, Twisted Tea, and Angry Orchard brands. Samuel Adams is one of the largest craft beer offerings in the country, and Angry Orchard cider has become one of the top U.S. ciders. The hard cider category is currently less than 1% of the U.S. beer market, and the category is growing at more than 50% per year. This presents a huge growth opportunity for Boston Beer going forward.

Boston Beer operates in a competitive market and hence it has to resort to advertising, promotions, and incentives for boosting sales. This is why Boston Beer is making brand investments that will have long-lasting benefits, but these moves will have a bearing on earnings. Hence, Boston Beer reduced its earnings guidance to a range of $5.05-$5.35 per share from the previous range of $5.10-$5.40 per share.

Molson Coors Brewing Company is falling behind
Boston Beer's advertising efforts seem to be benefiting the company as its competitor, Molson Coors, struggled in the previous quarter. During the third quarter, Molson Coors reported that sales volume declined 0.9% versus the previous year to 8.96 million hectoliters.

As a result of this, Molson Coors' revenue declined 2% to $1.17 billion and missed the consensus estimate of $1.22 billion. Molson Coors reported adjusted earnings per share of $1.45, up 5.8% versus the same quarter last year. The increase in earnings was due to improved pre-tax earnings in its U.S., Europe, and international businesses.

Molson Coors has been struggling with declines in sales volume for the past three years. The company continues to expect weak consumer demand in the coming quarters because of ongoing macro-economic headwinds and a shift in consumer preferences. Despite this, the company will accelerate its commitment to transformational efforts and also increase marketing investments in its brands in order to drive volume growth in the coming quarters.

Constellation Brands continues to impress
In comparison, Constellation Brands has been on a tear this year with its stock price up by about 98%. Constellation is focusing on fortifying its brand and launching new products. In addition, Constellation has also focused on acquisitions and mergers for growth. In June this year, it spent $4.75 billion on acquiring the 50% Crown stake that it did not already own.

During the second quarter, Constellation's beer segment revenue increased 3.4% versus the year-ago quarter. Net sales almost doubled versus the year-ago period to $1.46 billion, primarily due to the consolidation of Crown's business. Constellations' overall gross profit margin, however, contracted by 70 basis points as a result of higher grape costs and shipment timing.

Buoyed by a robust quarterly performance, Constellation Brands issued upbeat guidance for fiscal 2014. The company now expects fiscal 2014 adjusted earnings per share to be in the $2.80-$3.10 territory, compared with the $2.60-$2.90 it projected earlier.

Bottom line
In my opinion, both Constellation Brands and Boston Beer look like good options for profiting from the brewing industry in the U.S. On the other hand, Molson Coors has been struggling. Investors who look to benefit from this industry should take a look at either Constellation or Boston Beer depending on their taste.

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  • Report this Comment On December 11, 2013, at 10:58 AM, ScoopHoop wrote:

    SAM has been trending down lately. Stock recently fell below its 50-day moving average of 241.42. When stocks like this trend down, investors may want to consider buying in fourths or fifths, no more than one trade per day. I bought 10 shares SAM at 236, 10 at 234.50 and 5 more today at 228.90. This is pricey but I have a long view on this stock. If company continues to grow sales 20% annually, this company will double in sales in 3.6 years.

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