Boston Beer Leans on Twisted Tea and Truly Brands for a Refreshing Quarter

Steve Symington, The Motley Fool

Boston Beer (NYSE: SAM) released delicious first-quarter 2019 results on Wednesday after the market closed, showcasing the relative strength of the craft brewer's Truly Hard Seltzer and Twisted Tea varieties despite increasingly crowded retail shelves. The company also outlined its latest plans to return its flagship Samuel Adams brand to growth.

With shares up 9% in after-hours trading right now, let's pour it all on the table for a better idea of how Boston Beer kicked off the new year.

Man pouring draft beer into a glass from a tap

Image source: Getty Images.

Boston Beer results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q1 2019

Q1 2018

Growth (Year Over Year)

Net revenue

$251.7 million

$190.5 million

32.1%

GAAP net income

$23.7 million

$9.3 million

154.8%

GAAP earnings per diluted share

$2.02

$0.78

159%

Data source: Boston Beer. GAAP = generally accepted accounting principles. 

What happened with Boston Beer this quarter?

  • This quarter included a $0.15-per-share tax benefit (compared with a similar $0.23-per-share benefit in the same year-ago period) related to new accounting standards for stock-based compensation.
  • Boston Beer doesn't provide specific quarterly guidance. So for perspective -- and though we don't usually pay close attention to Wall Street's demands -- most analysts were modeling earnings of only $1.01 per share on revenue of $235 million. 
  • Shipment volume increased 32.5% year over year to roughly 1.1 million barrels.
  • Depletions -- a metric to measure how fast Boston Beer's products travel from warehouses to consumer outlets -- climbed 11% year over year.
  • Gross margin fell one percentage point year over year to 49.5%, as cost-savings initiatives were offset by higher processing costs from third-party breweries, greater temporary labor costs at company-owned breweries, and increased packaging expenses.

What management had to say

"First-quarter shipments growth was significantly higher than depletions as we took active steps to ensure that our distributor inventory levels are adequate to support drinker demand during the peak summer months," stated Boston Beer CEO Dave Burwick. "Our depletions growth in the first quarter was the result of increases in our Truly Hard Seltzer and Twisted Tea brands that were only partially offset by decreases in our Samuel Adams and Angry Orchard brands."

Boston Beer founder and Chairman Jim Koch cautioned that the company is still battling a "general softening of the craft beer category," as well as "retail shelves that offer an overwhelming number of options to drinkers."

Koch elaborated: 

We plan to continue to invest in the coming months to improve trends and remain focused on the longer-term goal of returning Samuel Adams to growth. While it's too early to draw long-term conclusions, we've received very positive reactions from distributors, retailers and drinkers on our new Sam Adams packaging design and the new taste profile of Sam Summer Ale. We are confident in our ability to innovate and build strong brands and help support our mission of long-term profitable growth.

Looking ahead

Boston Beer reiterated its previous guidance for full-year 2019 adjusted earnings per share of between $8 and $9, though that range now assumes depletions and shipment growth of between 10% and 15%, up from between 8% and 13% previously, national price increases of between 1% and 3%, steady from its old guidance, and gross margin of between 50% and 52%, down from between 51% and 53% before.

With that zero-sum game resulting in the same bottom line, however, it's encouraging to see Boston Beer working hard to meet increased demand for its wares. Given the prospect of returning the Samuel Adams brand to growth in the coming quarters while sustaining momentum for its supplementary innovations, it's no surprise to see Boston Beer stock bubbling higher as we speak.

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Steve Symington has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Boston Beer. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.