The 3rd-fastest growing brewery in America has fewer tap handles than your average Hooters

Recent news reports naming Phoenixville’s Crowded Castle the third-fastest growing small and independent brewery in America in 2017 had me scratching my head.

How could a brewery that’s been open barely a year be among the fastest growing? Especially one that produces, perhaps, a mere 1,000 barrels a year, and sells it all in-house from 11 taps.

My money would’ve been on someone bigger, like Funky Buddha, the Florida outfit that just sold to Constellation Brands and is now canning at Ballast Point.

Turns out, the growth rate is based on a quirk in Crowded Castle’s history. You see, the fledgling business actually began in 2014 as a contract brewery, producing beer out of Perkasie’s Free Will brewhouse. It produced just a few pilot batches that were sold only in the Allentown area.

According to head brewer Mark Sofio, after Pennsylvania loosened its tasting room regs, Crowded Castle changed its business model to an on-site brewery. Its Phoenixville location is producing far more than it did when it was contracting.

When the Brewers Association crunched the numbers, Crowded Castle showed behind No. 1 CraftRoots of Massachusetts and No. 2 GoatHouse of California.

“After the report came out,” Sofio told me, “I actually called the B.A. and told them I think there’s an error.”

The B.A. didn’t release actual production or growth stats with its report, but Sofio said the organization told him the numbers are accurate.

“It doesn’t mean we’re the hottest beer on the market,” Sofio said. “It just means we’ve had big growth. To that end, we’ve had a good ride this year.”

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