Under the influence: Ten intoxicating statistics on beer

People have been brewing beer for more than 5,000 years, but what is it that makes it so appealing and how much do we consume every year?

On Friday, people around the world gathered to mark International Beer Day. First started back in 2007 by Jesse Avshalomov as a small event in a local bar in Santa Cruz, California, the annual day of celebration now draws in people from more than 80 countries and 207 cities across six continents.

Each year, enthusiasts from around the globe come together to pay homage to the world’s most popular alcoholic beverage and celebrate the craft of brewing whilst showing a wider appreciation for those working across the industry.

But what is it that makes beer so appealing and how much do we consume every year?

Here are ten intoxicating statistics on beer: 

  • Beer remains the most popular alcoholic beverage drink worldwide. Indeed, after water and tea it is now the most commonly consumed drink. Figures from Kirin Holdings show that consumers pushed global consumption up for the second year in a row to more than 189.05 million kiloliters in 2019.
  • Did you know there are more than fifty different types of beer and many other ways in which to categorise them, according the Beer Community? They point to there being more than a hundred distinct styles of beer which include over 73 different ales and more than 25 types of lager and that’s not including a ‘handful of hybrid styles.
  • Interestingly and perhaps unexpectedly, all beers are actually either lagers or ales, with the type of yeast used during the fermentation process determining which. While lagers such as pilsners and German-style Bocks are made with a yeast that ferments at the bottom of the beer, ales like IPAs, Porters and Stouts are born of a yeast that ferments at the top. Another process, known as spontaneous fermentation, exposes wild bacteria and yeast to produce lambic and sour beers.
  • For seventeen years China’s love affair with beer has ensured it remains the largest beer consuming country on the planet, with citizens knocking back more than 39.218 million kiloliters in 2019. However, the Czech Republic can lay claim to having the biggest individual drinkers, with its per-capita beer consumption standing at more than 297.9 633ml bottles. Perhaps one reason for this could be the fact that in Prague beer is cheaper than bottled water.
  • At 14.65 billion US dollars, Budweiser was the most valued beer brand in the world in 2020, according to Statista and in the US Bud Light remains the top-selling beer with an incredbile 27.2 million barrels shipped in 2019. However, you have to go a bit farther afield to find world’s best-selling brand of beer. That title goes to the Chinese brand Snow which sells more than 100 million hectolitres annually, more than double that of its closest rival. When you consider these sales are almost exclusively occurring in China, it also gives you an indication of the immense size and spending potential of a Chinese population of 1.4 billion.
  • One surprising beer statistic is that two African nations make the top ten list for countries with the highest beer consumption per capita, according to WorldPopulationReview. With 108 litres of beer consumed per capita Namibia has the second highest beer consumption in the world, closely followed by the Seychelles with 90 litres per person.
  • Today, lager is still the most popular beer in the UK, with 71 percent of Brits suggesting they preferred this over porters and brown ales which didn’t even make the top five, according to a survey by the Society of Independent Brewers. Last year some 6,358,309 hectolitres of lager were sold in pubs across the UK, with Carling, Fosters and Carlsberg being the most popular among drinkers, according to the The Morning Advertiser’s annual Drinks List: Top Brands to Stock in 2021. When it comes to craft beer, Camden Hells is now the UK’s best seller in terms of on-trade, edging BrewDog’s Punk IPA into second place having sold more than 42,426 hectolitres.
  • Last year, the EU produced nearly 32 billion litres of beer equating to around 74 litres per inhabitant, according to Eurostat. Of this, Germany produced around 7.5 billion litres, meaning one in every four beers produced in the EU came from Germany. Bremen’s Becks remains the country’s most popular beer, closely followed by Krombacher from Krombach and Warsteiner from Warstein.
  • One fact that might surprise you to know is that Skol is currently the fifth best-selling beer in the world. Originally produced in Alloa Scotland, the beer which has been brewed since 1959, originally drew its inspiration and name from the Scandinavian toast word ‘skål’. However, while Skol had grabbed 21 percent of the UK market by 1967, it’s star would fade in the 1980s when Allied replaced it with Castlemaine XXXX as its main lager brand. Fortunately Skol subsequently carved out a market for itself in South America where its largest market is Brazil. There, it has been the biggest beer brand since the 1990s and is aimed at a younger market with the tagline, “The beer that goes down round."
  • Finally, while there is some debate as to the origins of beer, a common held assumption is that the world’s first fermented beverages began to take shape alongside the development of cereal agriculture around 12,000 years ago. However, as History.com notes, the first ‘hard evidence’ of beer production dates back around 5,000 years to the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia where its ‘nutrient-rich suds’ were probably viewed as a safer alternative to local rivers contaminated by animal waste. There, archeologists also discovered ceramic vessels from 3400 B.C. still sticky with beer residue.

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