While it is virtually impossible to confirm, beer is suspected to be the oldest alcoholic drink in history. Today, beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage world-wide, and is the second-most popular beverage in general, ranking second only to tea.
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There are over one hundred distinct styles of brewing beer, with some countries becoming famous for their variations of the brew. For example, Belgium is known for the witbier, a traditional Belgian wheat beer, while the United Kingdom is more popular for its lagers. While specific regions are known for certain styles of beer production, brewers across the globe produce a variety of styles to keep up with demand from beer lovers.
The country that produces the most beer in the world
According to BarthHaas, a German hop trader accounting for 30 percent of the market share, China was the world’s top producer of beer in 2020, with the United States ranking second, and Brazil filling in the third spot.
Read on to discover which countries produced the most beer in 2020.
The Top 20 Beer Producing Countries
|Ranking||Country||Output Volume (hL)|
|2||The United States||211,166,000|
|11||The United Kingdom||32,358,000|
Information about the world’s biggest beer producing countries
Chinese archeologists estimate that beer was first produced in China approximately 7,000 to 9,000 years ago using rice as the grain of choice. while modern brewing using barley and hops did not start until the early 1900s. Today, China produces more beer than any other country in the world with annual production increasing by roughly three to five percent per year. The Chinese beer market is now dominated by seven large brewery groups, most of which have paired with large foreign brewers in order to improve their access to new techniques and new markets. In 2020, China produced 341.1 million hectolitres of beer, which is equivalent to approximately 286 million barrels.
The United States
Americans love beer –– that much is no secret. In fact, in 2020, American drinkers of legal drinking age consumed 26 gallons of beer per person over the course of the year. American beer production is dominated by AB InBev, which produces recognizable bottles like Budweiser and Corona, as well as Molson Coors, the producers of Blue Moon, Coors Light, and Miller Lite. Craft beer is also extremely popular in the United States, and the number of craft breweries increased exponentially over the course of the last 10 years. In 2020, the Americans produced 211,166,000 hectolitres of beer, the equivalent of over 177 million barrels.
The importance of the beer sector for the Brazilian economy is increasing rapidly and in 2019, the Sectorial Chamber for Beer was created by the Brazilian Ministry for Livestock Farming and Supply to support the industry. Thanks to the increasingly globalized world we live in, Brazilians have had the ability to experience new brands and tastes from international beer producers, which has in turn skyrocketed the country’s beer production industry. In 1999, Brazil had just 33 micro-breweries — by 2019, this number had increased to 1,209. In 2020, Brazil produced 151.9 million hectolitres of beer, which is equivalent to over 127 million barrels.
It has been said that the first beer was brewed in Mexico in 1544. Today, the beer industry makes up shy of roughly 30 percent of the total gross production in Mexico’s beverage sector, making it one of the most important economic factors. Furthermore, Mexico is the largest beer exporter in the world, and almost half of every beer made in the country is exported internationally. The country produced 126.9 million hectolitres of beer in 2020, or over 106 million barrels.
Germany undeniably has one of the oldest continuous brewing cultures in the world, and has been the leader in beer production in the European Union for years. It’s no shock that German beers are so renowned, especially with annual celebrations like Oktoberfest and Springfest bringing millions of beer lovers in from around the world. Today, Germany produces over 20 percent of all beers in the EU, with pilsner and wheat beers being the most popular. Germany produced 87,027,000 hectolitres of beer in 2020, just shy of 73 million barrels.
Following vodka, beer is the second most popular drink in Russia, and is often the beverage of choice for many Russians during the summer months, as well as at sporting events and barbeques. In Russia, beer is categorized differently than how we are used to seeing in the United States; rather than categorizing beers based on their type, for example a pilsner, wheat beer, or lager, Russians categorize their beers according to the colors present — light, red, semi-dark, or dark. The country produced 79.5 million hectolitres of beer, the equivalent of over 66 million barrels.
Beer’s big break in Japan didn’t arrive until the late 1800s, when an American opened The Japan Brewery in Yokohama in 1869 to primarily sell beer to foreign travelers on business. Throughout the remainder of the 1800s, other Japanese-owned breweries opened, and by the 1900s, domestic beer production was well underway. Today, Japan’s beer culture includes brews ranging from craft beers to low-malt beers, called happo-shu, which are very popular in the country. Happo-shu is unique to Japan due to its low-malt levels (usually 25 percent or less), which is an important factor when it comes to the cost of the beverage. Japanese beer taxes are about $2.50 per liter, causing an ordinary six-pack to cost upwards of $15. However, happo-shu can contain up to 65 percent malt before being reclassified as a beer, meaning its cost point is much more affordable with a six-pack costing around $8. In 2020, Japan produced over 46 million hectolitres of beer, the equivalent of over 39 million barrels.
According to a survey conducted by the Institute of Population and Social Affairs, the second most popular alcoholic drink of choice in Vietnam is beer. From 2005 to 2019, the Vietnamese beer market has nearly tripled in terms of the average volume produced annually. Sabeco and Habeco, two of Vietnam’s leading beer producers, account for over 50 percent of the beer industry’s market share, dominating in both the affordable and mid-end sectors of the industry. The country produced 40 million hectolitres of beer in 2020, or over 33 million barrels.
Poland accounts for 12 percent of all beer produced in the European Union, making it the second top producer of beer in the EU. Director of the Union of Brewing Industry Employers Browary Polskie Bartłomiej Moryzycki states, “Poland has gone through a beer revolution, transforming from a vodka country to a beer country.” Today, there are over 310 breweries in the country, and the industry as a whole sustains over 9,000 jobs nation-wide. In 2020, the Polish produced over 38 million hectolitres of beer, amounting to over 32 million barrels.
Early evidence of beer production in Spain has been uncovered by archeologists from the University of Barcelona who found traces of malt and beer still adhered to grinding stones in a cave in Begues, Barcelona. A key driver of Spain’s beer industry is an uptick in interest in craft beer. Behind Germany, the United Kingdom, and Poland, Spain is the largest producer of craft beer in the European Union. Furthermore, Spain’s success in the beer production industry may come from the fact that over 90 percent of all beers consumed in Spain were produced domestically, making it increasingly challenging for foreign producers to infiltrate the Spanish market. In 2020, the country produced over 34.7 million hectolitres of beer, approximately 29 million barrels.
The United Kingdom
Widely considered to be one of the top brewing and drinking nations, the United Kingdom has remained steadfast in its traditional production of beer. The classic pub is, unsurprisingly, behind the success of the beer industry in the country. Beer is popular across the United Kingdom, with London being a city of note for its historic pubs and trendy craft brewers but not exclusive in its claim over the industry — Derby and Sheffield now duel it out for the right to claim their city has the most beers on tap and Edinburgh’s craft brewing sector is on the rise. In 2020, the United Kingdom produced over 32 million hectolitres of beer, amounting to over 27 million barrels.
Beer production in South Africa is largely dominated by South African Breweries (SAB), a subsidiary of AB InBev, which accounts for roughly 88 percent of beer produced in the country. While SAB maintains an almost complete monopoly over beer production in the country, the craft beer market has taken off in recent years with 220 craft breweries now open. These craft brewers draw from local ingredients and South African drinking culture to produce their independent brews. In 2020, brewers in South Africa produced 26 million hectolitres of beer, over 21 million barrels.
Colombian beer is known for its tasty and refreshing qualities, necessary for relaxing after a hot day in the sun.. Two of the most popular beer producers in the country are Aguila and Bavaria, the Colombian subsidiary of AB In-Bev. In 2020, the country produced over 23 million hectolitres of beer, amounting to approximately 20 million barrels.
While Belgium may rank 14th in terms of beer production, the country brews 10 times more per citizen than the global average. Furthermore, Belgium excels in producing beers that are diverse and versatile. Over two-thirds of Belgian beers are eligible for exports, which allows for many small and independent brewers to do quite well in the country. Belgium produced 23.4 million hectoliters of beer in 2020, just shy of 20 million barrels.
Beer brewing in Canada began with the first settlers and traders in New France, who made it for necessity, not leisurely drinking. At this time, milk and water in the area were unsafe to drink, filled with dangerous microorganisms and bacteria that often made settlers very sick. However, the long boiling time involved in brewing beer, killed off the bacteria, leaving behind something potable. Today, beer in Canada is no longer produced out of necessity and the beer industry is dominated by two national brewers, Labatt and Molson. The beer industry contributes substantially to Canada’s tax income, generating over $5.7 billion in federal, provincial, and municipal governments in 2017. Canada produced 22.6 million hectolitres of beer in 2020, amounting to about 19 million barrels.
The most popular beer produced in the Netherlands is undeniably Heineken. The pilsner is exported to countries world-wide and its iconic green bottle has become a hallmark of Dutch brewing. Pilsner as a whole accounts for over 90 percent of all beer sold in the Netherlands, but craft brewing has brought a rise in popularity to no fewer than 60 distinct styles. The country produced over 22 million hectoliters of beer in 2020, just over 18 million barrels.
When one thinks of alcohol and France, they are most likely to first think of wine from famous regions like Bordeaux and Champagne. Even still, beer is both consumed and appreciated nationwide, especially in northern regions like Nord-Pas de Calais and Alsace-Lorraine, which border Belgium and Germany. Nord-Pas de Calais is popular for producing a diverse selection of specialty beers, more so than any other French brewer. French beers are typically lower in alcohol content than beers produced in other countries, and they tend to favor malt flavors. France produced 20.7 hectolitres of beer in 2020, equivalent to over 17 million barrels.
Home to the pilsner, the Czech Republic is arguably one of the most important countries in the history of modern beer. The region has been producing beer since the Middle Ages, and today, the majority of beers sold in the country are light beers. The country also produces half a million tons of malt and grows approximately 7,000 tons of hops per year. While the Czech Republic has approximately 125 breweries, choice can be limited in the country as the dominant Czech brewer, Budvar, is state-owned. In 2020, the Czech Republic produced 20,122,000 hectolitres of beer, just shy of 17 million barrels.
Beer production in Thailand is dominated by two family-owned corporate giants, Boonrawd Brewery and Thaibev, both of which claim over 90 percent of the market share. To protect these beverage giants, the Thai government passed legislation in 1950 that prevents homebrewing –– the law also declares that beer can only be made in factories producing over one million liters per year. Any individual found breaking this law will face potential jail time, raids by police, and/or fines. The country produced over 20 million hectolitres of beer in 2020, amounting to over 16 million barrels.
The beer industry in South Korea is dominated by two local breweries, Oriental Brewery Company, a subsidiary of AB InBev, and HiteJinro Co. Based on raw sales, Oriental Brewery accounts for over 50 percent of the market share in South Korea, HiteJinro Co. accounting for 33 percent. While the industry is dominated by these two brands, microbreweries remain popular across the country, and the number of breweries increased from 61 in 2014 to 133 by 2018. The country produced 19 million hectolitres of beer in 2020, just shy of 16 million barrels.