Every beer drinker has a favorite brew. Some people are beer purists, drinking only imports and beers they consider “fine ales”. Some people drink beer according to their own personality. Some choose a beer by social class or even their job. Beers vary in how popular they are by region, price, country and season.
The best way to figure out what brands are most popular are to look at two groups: international beers and American beers. Most countries don’t place the taboos on alcohol consumption that American does, and so America keeps the most comprehensive statistics. These statistics are often broken up into “import beers” versus “local beers”.
Gaining ground since 2000 in the international category is Corona Extra, made in Mexico. Corona is a lighter, sweeter beer, and is the number one import beer in America. They introduced Corona Light, and that only increased their share of the beer market.
Not surprisingly, Heineken takes a place in the top five import beers, coming in a close second to Corona. They also introduced a light beer to their line, but it hasn’t helped their share of the market like Corona Light did for Corona. Heineken is a slightly more bitter beer brewed in Germany originally. Heineken now has a brewing plant in the United States.
Following these are Labatt Blue and Tecate. Labatt is a Canadian beer that is not as bitter as Heineken, and Tecate is another Mexican beer, slightly harsher than Corona in flavor. Technically Labatt is in third place and Tecate is fourth, but they have such a close share of the market it is nearly a tie.
Guinness, from Ireland, holds fifth place in market share. It has had trouble gaining ground in the American market, even though it is hugely popular in Europe, because of its heavy, dark, robust flavor and weighty texture. It is one of the most nutritious beers available, and requires a nitrous distribution process that is completely different from the CO2 required by most American beers and imports.
Bringing up the rear of the top ten international beers we have Foster’s Lager from Australia, Beck’s from Germany, Amstel Light (from the makers of Heineken), Bass Ale (part of the Guinness family of brewers), and Modelo Especial (from Mexico). Recently, Amstel Light has been moving up in popularity as people become more aware of their weight and seek out more robust light beers.
The number one seller in America is Bud Light, by Anheuser-Busch, with Budweiser trailing behind in second place. Most of the American beers have a similar light texture, pale color and unrefined, slightly bitter taste. People tend to drink American beer according to location, job or social standing more than any other reason.
Third on the list is Coors Light. This beer has remained strong thanks to a sharp marketing department that finds ways to overcome it’s lack of taste by idealizing its brewing location, but the ability of Bud Light’s marketing department to make Americans laugh keeps it on top.
For a while Miller Lite had the lion’s share of the American Beer market thanks to a catchy slogan in the 70s and 80s (Tastes Great! Less Filling!). It hasn’t been able to compete with Bud Light’s campaigns for a while, and the Budweiser Superbowl commercial juggernaut has become incredibly hard to beat, keeping Miller Lite in the number 4 spot.
The fifth position on the list is held by Natural Light. This is another in the long list of Anheuser-Busch beers. It is also one of their most reasonably priced beers. This price break keeps it in its higher position on the list ore than anything else.
The American beers bringing up the end of the line are Busch, Busch Light, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life and Michelob Light. Two of those are also Anheuser-Busch creations, giving Anheuser-Busch a massive share of the American beer market. Every other beer on the list except for Coors Light is made by Miller Brewing Company.
As Anheuser-Busch and Miller continue to up the ante in their battle for total beer domination, sending more and better commercials our way, improving packaging and making minor changes to their beer line, Americans are making a sea change in their buying habits. As international beers get more popular, American beer companies are being forced to become more interesting (witness the introduction of Miller Amber and Budweiser E). Only time will tell if American beer makers can hold on to their massive market share.