Craft Brewers Alliance Inc. reported a modest first-quarter profit, reversing a seven-figure loss from a year ago.

The Portland-based brewer (NASDAQ: HOOK), reported a $209,000 profit, or 1 cent per share, on sales of $29.3 million. That compares to a loss of $1.07 million loss, or 6 cents per share, on $29.7 million in sales in the same quarter last year.

For the four quarters that ended March 31, 2010, the brewer reported a $2.1 million profit.

It attributed its improved performance to better margins and a reduction in expenses related to the merger that formed the company.

Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. and Red Hook Brewery merged to form Craft Brewers Alliance on July 1, 2008. The resulting company operates four company-owned breweries, including one in the Seattle area, one in Portsmouth, N.H. and two in Portland. It sells its products to Anheuser-Busch and its network of wholesalers.

Craft Brewers also has equity interests in Fulton Street Brewery LLC and Kona Brewery LLC. Its investment in Fulton Street Brewery was worth $4.6 million on March 31. Its investment in Kona was worth $1.2 million at the end of the quarter. Kona produces a portion of its brews at Craft Brewers’ Oregon facilities. Craft Brewers receives a facility leasing fee.

Craft Brewers said the recession has hurt its business, causing a 10 percent decline in shipments in 2009 compared to 2008. It projects improved shipments in 2010 but cautioned that sales tor restaurants, dining establishments and convenience stores have been significantly impacted by the economy.