3 Stocks to Watch in Beer

By Markets Fool.com

Summer officially begins in just a few days; on June 21 to be exact. And as temperatures rise across the country, Americans' consumption of beer predictably ticks higher. In contrast, beer drinking falls -- and liquor sales climb -- through the holiday months of November and December.

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With that alcohol seasonality in mind, I'm spotlighting three beer brewer stocks to watch as this summer heats up: Anheuser Busch , Molson Coors , and Boston Beer .

Metric Anheuser Busch Molson Coors Boston Beer
Market Cap $194 billion $13.5 billion $3.3 billion
Annual Revenue $47 bilion $4 billion $0.9 billion
Sales Growth 9% -1% 22%
Profit Margin 60% 40% 52%
Price/Earnings 26 32 36
Price/Sales 3.3 times 3.4 times 3.7 times

Revenue and sales growth are based on the last complete fiscal year. Profit margin is trailing 12 months. Source: Company financial filings.

Bud Light
With a whopping 46% of the market, global giant Anheuser Busch dominates the U.S. beer industry. The company owns over 200 brands, including three truly global franchises: Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Corona. Its biggest product in the U.S. is Bud Light, the single best-selling beer in this country.

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Source: Anheuser Busch.

In the most recent quarter, Anheuser Busch logged 6% overall sales gains thanks to strong performances out of its three global brands. Budweiser sales rose 6.2%, Corona rose 2.7%, and Stella Artois gained 1.2%. Here in the U.S., Budweiser saw its best performance in a year last quarter, and Bud Light extended its market share lead on the back of a strong Super Bowl advertising campaign. The company expects those trends to continue, and for overall beer volume to grow significantly this year, both in the U.S. and around the world.

Coors Light
Molson Coors is the second largest brewer in the U.S., with 27% of the market. That huge presence comes courtesy of sales of Coors Light and Miller Light products. But those two brands are under pressure from both directions. As mentioned above, Bud Light is stealing market share, But so are small, specialty craft brewers. And together, these competitors helped push Molson's sales lower by 1.4% last year.

Source: Molson Coors.

The company is responding by increasing advertising support for Coors and Miller Light brands, and by introducing more of its own craft beers, which it calls "above premium" brands. In a recent earnings release, CEO Tom Long claimed:

We'll continue to win in Above Premium by amplifying and expanding our higher-margin offerings like Redd's, Blue Moon and Leinenkugel's Shandy portfolio as we head into the summer selling season.

Sam Adams Light
Those launches threaten to increase pressure on Boston Beer, the largest craft brewer in the country. While tiny relative to the entire market, the company dominates the premium beer category. And that's a nice niche to own, given that it is growing by 19% per year as the overall beer industry stays flat.

Source: Boston Beer.

But Boston Beer is going through its own market share struggles right now. The Angry Orchard brand, which lit up the hard cider sector, is facing challenges from dozens of smaller craft brewers. Meanwhile, Molson and Anheuser Busch are hunting for growth and have ramped up their presence in the premium sector. And on top of that, Boston Beer's pace of new product introduction should slow down a bit this year.

Those three unfavorable trends are the reasons management expects sales in 2015 to grow at half the pace they did last year. Whether the company overshoots that forecast will largely depend on its launch of the Traveler beer brand, which is being rolled out across the country right now.

The article 3 Stocks to Watch in Beer originally appeared on Fool.com.

Demitrios Kalogeropoulos owns shares of Apple and Boston Beer. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Boston Beer. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Boston Beer. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.