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America’s 26 top-selling beers show that the country still likes a cold one now and then
Americans love beer. Some 40 percent of drinkers in the U.S. list the hoppy concoction as their alcoholic beverage of choice. U.S. beer consumption totaled nearly 75 litres per person in 2016 alone.
A large portion of the beer consumed comes from major beer distributors such as Molson Coors Brewing Company and Anheuser-Busch InBev. These are the types of beers you will likely see advertised during sporting events on TV — brews like Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light. Millions of barrels of these beers are shipped across the country each year.
24/7 Wall Street reviewed shipping data from Beer Marketer’s Insights, a U.S. brewing industry trade publisher, to determine America’s 26 top selling beers.
Though these large American brews sell millions of barrels a year, many are waning in popularity. Benj Steinman, president of Beer Marketer’s Insights, told 24/7 Wall St. that while these familiar beers from large brewers have fallen in favor, two major segments of the American beer market have taken their place.
“The two main areas of the industry that have gained in [roughly the last] decade have been craft and Mexican imports,” Steinman said. Many American beer consumers want to try new beverages, leading to a rise in craft beer sales, though that has leveled off over the past few years, Steinman added.
The rising demand for beer brands from Mexico
The rising demand for beer brands from Mexico has vaulted lagers like like Modelo and Corona up the list of America’s favorite beers. These Mexican imports have largely avoided the sales decline that has been common among beers like Miller Lite or Bud Light, instead posting substantial year-over-year growth. According to Steinman, three reasons are behind the increased demand for Mexican beers: a growing Hispanic population in the United States, effective marketing campaigns, and the brands’ broadening appeal with the general market.
While Americans typically prefer domestic beers, this Irish brew sells well. The brewer shipped over 1 million barrels of Guinness in the U.S. market in 2017 — including the Guinness Stout, which made the brewery famous. Americans also tend to prefer lighter lagers, but Guinness is best known for its dark draught, described by Guinness as “perfect balance of bitter and sweet.”
25. Milwaukee’s Best Ice
Milwaukee’s Best Ice is one of several ice-style lagers that rank among America’s favorite beer brands. As the name suggests, ice beers are chilled to below freezing during the brewing process, forming ice crystals that supposedly imbue the brew with a smoother flavor. In the case of Milwaukee’s Best Ice, it also increases the alcohol content by more than a full percentage point to 5.9 percent, compared to Milwaukee’s Best Premium.
24. Corona Light
Along with many other Mexican-style lagers, Corona Light is exploding in popularity in America. Not only does the U.S.’s growing Hispanic population often prefer to stick with familiar beers, but the brand is also enjoying increased popularity across the general population. Corona Light is a lower calorie alternative — 99 calories per 12 oz. bottle — to the 149 calories in Corona Extra.
In Texas, an icehouse is an old-style neighborhood tavern, at least partially open to the outside. However, the Icehouse lager, brewed by Molson Coors Brewing Co., has nothing to do with Texas. Its name indicates that it’s an ice beer, in fact the first one produced in America, introduced in 1993.
22. Steel Reserve
Steel Reserve differs from many of the beers on this list because of its high alcohol content. Many of America’s favorite brews hover around 5 percent alcohol by volume. Steel Reserve has 8.1 percent ABV and is considered a malt liquor.
21. Coors Banquet
When Albert Coors founded his brewery in Golden, Colorado in 1873, he called his first beer Golden Lager. Miners working in the area ate heartily when the working day was done, and the locally produced beer was a favorite at their banquets. After Prohibition, the Coors company added the name “Banquet” to the lager label in honor of those miners’ feasts. Still produced only in Golden, the beer is brewed with Rocky Mountain water and locally grown Moravian barley.
20. Dos Equis
Dos Equis is a combination of German brewing techniques and Mexican ingredients. In the late 19th century, Wilhelm Hasse founded a brewery in Veracruz, Mexico. The brand was named in honor of the upcoming 20th century, as the Roman numeral XX means 20. Dos Equis is a pilsner-style beer.
19. Blue Moon Belgian White
Blue Moon Belgian White is a Belgian-style wheat ale, a genre characterized by a cloudy appearance (it’s unfiltered), an orange-peel citrusy tang, and a bit of spice, often coriander. The beer has been the subject of controversy and even a lawsuit because it’s marketed as if it were a craft beer when in fact it’s mass-produced by Molson Coors, the world’s third largest brewing company.
18. Yuengling Lager
Yuengling is one of the few major American brewers that is still family owned. The Pennsylvania-based brewery is also the oldest in America, making beer for nearly 200 years. It still ranks in the top 20 beer brands in terms of barrels shipped, an impressive feat considering that it’s only available in the eastern United States.
17. Natural Ice
An ice-brewed lager made with both malted barley and corn, Natural Ice is a spinoff from Anheuser-Busch’s Natural Light — popularly known as Natty. Slightly higher in alcohol content than the company’s Bud Ice (5.9 percent vs. 5.5 percent ABV), it is considered by reviewers to be bland but clean in flavor.
16. Pabst Blue Ribbon
Pabst Blue Ribbon has gained a reputation as a beer for so-called hipsters. But the real reason for its recent sales resurgence may have more to do with price. During the recession, PBR sales picked up, as it served as a cheap alternative at the bar. As the economy has picked up, sales have flattened for the pilsner.
15. Bud Ice
Though beer critics have called Bud Ice (along with other ice beers) lacking in personality, this ice-brewed sibling of Bud Light — America’s best-selling beer — has shipped an increasing amount of barrels each year since 2014. It’s comparatively low in calories for a non-light beer, with 123 per 12-ounce bottle (the company’s Natural Ice has 130).
14. Stella Artois
Stella Artois is one of the oldest beers available in America, as its roots stretch back about three centuries to Leuven, Belgium. Just recently, it has become one of the fastest-growing beers in the U.S. Its shipments have grown by more than 10 percent from 2016 to 2017, one of the biggest growths of any major beer.
13. Miller High Life
A golden pilsner, this popular beer was created in 1903 by brewer Frederick Miller. Miller supposedly gave it its name because he believed that the “high life,” i.e. good life, should be available even to those who could only afford to drink beer. To drive home his point, he added the slogan, “The Champagne of Beers,” to the label. Bottled beer was uncommon when the brand launched, and Miller gave his bottles long necks reminiscent of Champagne bottles. At various times in its history, the beer also had Champagne-style foil coverings over the bottlecaps.
12. Keystone Light
Keystone is one of six light beers that shipped over 3 million barrels of beer in the U.S. in 2017. But unlike most other light beers, Keystone Light shipments increased in 2017 compared to the year before. The 101-calorie light beer has outsold all other Keystone beers — the others shipped less than 1 million barrels.
This 154-year-old Dutch brewery has been ranked for the past two years as the world’s third most valuable beer brand — after Bud Light and Budweiser — by Brand Finance. Though it’s sometimes described as having a skunky aroma, it remains one of the world’s most popular lagers, and it has been hailed for its consistency.
Busch is one of six beers from Anheuser-Busch InBev that rank among the top 10 beers in terms of U.S. shipments. Though there is a Busch Light, Busch is also relatively low in calories compared to other similar brews. It has just 114 calories and 4.3 percent alcohol by volume.