This article was originally published on May 30, 2015 and was updated on May 24, 2016.
When it comes to drumming up recurring business, arguably no product has a bigger advantage than beer. And for astute investors looking to profit from that business, it should come as no surprise that there are many beer-centric stocks available from which you can choose.
In my opinion, these are the three best beer stocks.
1. Boston Beer Company (NYSE:SAM)
2. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (NYSE:BUD)
3. Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD)
Let's dive in and take a look.
Beer stock #1: Boston Beer Company
First, consider craft brew specialist Boston Beer Company, which is best known for its popular Samuel Adams varieties. Boston Beer is still a relatively small company with a market cap of just $3.5 billion, and as of last quarter, it accounted for just more than 1% of the U.S. beer market.
While many other relatively large brewers are struggling to grow, Boston Beer increased revenue 8.5% year over year in Q1, to $199.5 million, while net income crushed analysts' expectations by skyrocketing 65% to $13.7 million. For that massive jump, Boston Beer management pointed to a 2% increase in prices, a 2% decrease in advertising and promotional expenses, and notable improvements stemming from smart investments in its supply chain.
Boston Beer also has a long track record of growing depletions -- an industry measure for how quickly its products travel from warehouses to consumer outlets -- most recently thanks to strength in its increasingly important Angry Orchard and Twisted Tea brands.
In keeping with the broader industry's consolidation, Boston Beer also isn't afraid to make strategic investments of its own. For example, in 2013, it quietly acquired the rights to the award-winning Coney Island craft beer brand from Shmaltz Brewing Company. And last quarter, Boston Beer CEO Martin Roper noted that the ongoing rollout of its new Traveler brand is being well supported by beer drinkers, distributors, and retailers alike.
As Boston Beer Company continues to follow this approach to take share from larger competitors, I think the stock should also continue to reward patient shareholders going forward.
Beer stock #2: Anheuser-Busch InBev NV
Next, if you're looking for a beer investment of the more stable, dividend-paying variety, there's arguably no better place to be than with beer juggernaut Anheuser-Busch InBev. AB-InBev commands a staggering 20% of the global beer market, thanks to its enviable portfolio of more than 200 beer brands, including powerhouses like Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, Becks, Michelob, Leffe, Hoegaarden, and Skol.
AB-InBev also has investments that take advantage of the aforementioned craft beer industry. That includes a 31.7% stake (as of the end of 2014) in Craft Brew Alliance (NASDAQ:BREW), which owns the Redhook, Widmer Brothers, Kona Brewing, and Omission beer brands. AB-InBev has also purchased full or partial stakes in at least four other popular craft breweries during the past five years, most recently with its acquisition of Seattle-based Elysian Brewing in the first quarter of 2015.
However, AB-InBev's encroachment has left a bitter taste in many craft beer fans' mouths. And its greater-than-25% ownership stakes technically mean these breweries no longer meet the requirements to be considered true craft brewers as defined by the American Brewer's Association. However, that lack of designation is unlikely to have a significant negative impact on the opinions of the vast majority of beer drinkers whom AB-InBev is so adept at targeting.
In the end, AB-InBev shareholders are left with a beer investment with massive cash flow, a healthy 2.85% annual dividend yield, and industry leadership to spare.
Beer stock #3: Buffalo Wild Wings
Finally, consider grabbing a tall drink of beer-driven profit from Buffalo Wild Wings. And yes, I know B-Dubs doesn't technically brew its own beer. But the restaurant chain's long-standing slogan is "Wings. Beer. Sports."
Also, consider this: In 2013, Buffalo Wild Wings VP of Food & Beverage Experience Andy Dismore told CNBC: "We have the advantage of being the largest pourer of draft beer in the country, if not the world. If you're going to put beer as the second [item] in your tag line, then you better know what you're doing."
Buffalo Wild Wings has mastered a three-tiered system for choosing as many as 30 different taps for each restaurant. That starts with a national tier for well-known brands like Samuel Adams and Budweiser, continues with a regional tier chosen on a state-by-state basis, then finally narrows to a per-restaurant tier allowing individual locations the freedom to pick local favorites, seasonals, and even specific requests from diners.
Beer also plays a crucial role in Buffalo Wild Wings' menu innovation. Right now, for example, Buffalo Wild Wings' featured "Sauce Lab" flavor is a Blue Moon BBQ, which it claims pairs nicely with a Blue Moon Belgian White beer. And though Buffalo Wild Wings has long talked about making its own beer, in 2013, it opted to team up with Redhook to create its now-popular "Game Changer Ale."
As a result, beer comprises the vast majority of Buffalo Wild Wings' alcoholic beverage sales. And alcoholic beverages regularly represent at least 20% of the company's overall revenue. Based on current analysts' estimates, beer sales alone will likely generate more than $350 million in revenue for Buffalo Wild Wings in 2015.
Since Buffalo Wild Wings is also currently suffering a big spike in chicken-wing prices, beer will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the company's current guidance for full-year net income to climb at least 18%.
No need to choose another brewer. I think Buffalo Wild Wings stock fits right in as one of my top three stocks to invest in beer.