Boston Beer Co. saw full-year earnings leap almost 17% as it became the latest craft brewer to benefit from the thirst for more niche beers among US drinkers.

The Samuel Adams brewer posted a 16.6% rise in net income to US$18.2m for 2006 as revenues rose 19.8% to US$47.1m.

The rise in sales came despite targeted price increases from the brewer, CFO Bill Ulrich said. "We are pleased with our growth in depletions accompanied by pricing increases of approximately 2% in 2006," Ulrich said yesterday (13 March).

The popularity of craft beer in the US continues to go from strength to strength with sales up almost 12% in 2006, according to figures from the Brewers Association.

President and CEO Martin Roper said the brewer's depletions - or sales-to-retailers - had risen by 23% for the first two months of 2007, compared to the corresponding period last year.

Roper said: "While there is no guarantee that these trends will continue, we are encouraged by the strong start to 2007. Our 2007 plan calls for depletion growth in the low double digits, which is slightly lower than 2006 trends."

Boston Beer said its production costs are set to rise by 7-10% this year due to an increase in the price in malt and higher energy costs.

Roper added that the company expects to have gained the necessary permits to build a brewery in Freetown, Massachusetts by the middle of the year.