Here’s a shock to start your week: unless you visit China, you can’t actually drink the world’s most popular beer.

Another surprising thing you may not know (unless you’re the kind of beer nerd who’s been following this stuff for years): the U.S. hasn’t been the world’s biggest beer market since 2002, according to Quartz.

So who (and what) in the world is number one? China’s the biggest beer market in the world—Quartz reports that it’s already twice as big as the U.S.

As for the most popular beer in the world, that’s a Chinese brew called Snow Beer, brewed by China Resources Snow Breweries.

As you see in the chart below, Bloomberg notes that the rise in beer consumption seems to directly correlate with China’s rising GDP since 2002. That makes complete sense; the more money you have beyond what you need for basic necessities, the easier it is to blow cash on fun stuff like beer. 

rising income more beer money

Photo: Bloomberg

If you’ve been following world beer trends for the past few years, none of this will come as a surprise. Although Americans drink more beer per person than Chinese people, total Chinese beer consumption is about 110 billion pints per year—about twice as much as Americans, according to Bloomberg.

Here’s what China likes to drink:


According to Quartz, four of those five brands are owned by Chinese companies, while Harbin is the lone entry on that list that’s brewed by Belgium’s Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is currently the single biggest beermaker in the world.

That brings up the next question, though: which are the biggest beer companies in China?


Another important question you might ask, as a beer connoisseur: how does Snow Beer taste? BeerAdvocate currently rates it at a score of 61 (poor), with 37 user-submitted ratings. It’s a Euro-style pale lager, with 4.30% ABV.  (We said it was popular; we made no claims as to its awesomeness.)

So where’s Bud Light in this story? Snow passed it to become the world’s most popular beer back in 2009, according to Reuters—but while it may be down, it’s certainly not out. Bud Light is the number three best-selling beer by volume in 2013.

Here’s a list of the top ten best-selling beers in the world by volume in 2013, according to Bloomberg:

  1. Snow
  2. Tsingtao
  3. Bud Light
  4. Budweiser
  5. Skol
  6. Yanjing
  7. Heineken
  8. Harbin
  9. Brahma
  10. Coors Light

[via Quartz, Bloomberg]