The top 16 best selling imported beer brands in US in 2017 amass a large share of the imported beer in the U.S, which is the second-largest beer category behind domestic beer, though trailing it by a wide margin. According to the Brewers Association, in 2016, there were 196.75 million barrels of beer sold, with domestic beer amassing 139.28 million barrels, followed by imported beer with 33.37 million barrels. In 2016, imported beer saw the largest growth, of 6.8%, followed by craft beer, which registered a 6.2% increase in sales.
The popularity of beer looks strong based on the latest polls as well. According to Gallup, in 2017, 40% of alcohol consumers prefer beer, followed by 30% which prefer wine, while 26% prefer liquor. In 2016, a similar Gallup poll showed that 43% of alcohol consumers chose beer, while wine and liquor was picked as the preferred beverage by 32% and 20%, respectively.
Since colonial times, beer has been the favorite alcoholic beverage among Americans, with estimates for an average American amounting to around 28 US gallons. Due to the domination of the British and the Dutch in the early American colonies, beer was the primary alcoholic beverage, outranking wine. The first commercial brewery in the U.S was opened by the Dutch West India Company in 1632 in Lower Manhattan.
Early beers in America were based on the British brewing style and included mostly ales. Later, in the 19th century, German immigrants brought technologies for their own lager styles, which quickly gained popularity due to their longer shelf-life, as the hops in lager had preservative qualities. In fact, even Budweiser, one of the most popular domestic beers in the U.S, was developed after Adolphus Busch (who created Anheuser-Busch after taking over the company following the death of his father-in-law, Ebernard Anheuser) had toured Europe and discovered the Bohemian lager.
In this way, given the history, it’s not surprising that beer has always been popular in the U.S, with the exception of the Prohibition era, although beer was the first beverage to be legalized after it ended. During the Second World War, the beer industry in the U.S saw spectacular growth, as Prohibition led to the closure of many breweries and only large companies managed to stay in business.
Due to the large quantities of beer that were produced by domestic breweries, imported beer wasn’t very popular in the U.S. However, things changed in the 1980s when companies like Heineken and Diageo plc (ADR) (NYSE:DEO) (which makes Guinness), as well as other companies from Germany, Belgium, and elsewhere with deep beer brewing roots started to conquer the U.S beer market. However, the country that stood to win the most from the U.S beer market was Mexico. The U.S imports 75% of all the beer that Mexico exports.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the top 16 best selling imported beer brands in US in 2017. Due to the fact that the U.S imports large quantities of beer from Mexico, it’s not surprising that many beer brands come from there. Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE:STZ) is one of the biggest sellers of imported beer, with its Corona brand leading the list. Anheuser Busch Inbev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD) is another big player in the U.S import space, due to the fact that it owns the breweries that manufacture many of the top imported beer brands in the U.S.
This list was compiled using data from Statista and the VinePair.com infographic of the 20 most popular imported beers in America. Check it out beginning on the next page.
1. Corona Extra
Corona Extra is a brand of Mexican beer produced by Grupo Modelo, which is owned by Anheuser Busch Inbev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD). In the U.S, Corona Extra is imported by Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE:STZ) and generated sales of $1.71 billion last year. The beer is a pale lager and has 4.5% alcohol by volume. Corona Extra is one of the best selling brands of beer worldwide and tops the list of the 16 best selling imported beer brands in US in 2017.
2. Modelo Especial
Modelo Especial is another brand of beer manufactured by Anheuser Busch Inbev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD)-owned Grupo Modelo and imported by Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE:STZ). In 2016, Modelo Especial generated sales of $1.22 billion in the U.S alone. Modelo Especial represents a rich, full-flavored Pilsner-style lager.
Heineken is a Dutch beer made by Heineken International. It represents a pale lager with a 5% alcohol by volume. In the U.S, Heineken is imported by the local subsidiary of Heineken International, Heineken USA. Last year, Heineken USA sold $749.8 million worth of Heineken beer.
4. Dos Equis XX Lager Light
Dos Equis XX Lager Light is made by Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, a large Mexican brewery headquartered in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico. The brewery operates several plants across the country and is a subsidiary of Heineken International. In the U.S, Dos Equis XX Lager Light is imported by Heineken USA, a subsidiary of Heineken International and the beer registered $347.8 million in sales last year.
5. Stella Artois Lager
Stella Artois is a Belgian pilsner with an alcohol content between 4.8% and 5.2%, and ranks fifth on the list of the 16 best selling imported beer brands in US in 2017. It is manufactured by Interbrew International B.V., which is a subsidiary of Anheuser Busch Inbev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD). Anheuser Busch Inbev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD) also imports and distributes Stella Artois in the U.S. In 2016, Stella Artois registered sales of $323.8 million.
6. Corona Light
Corona Light is a low-calorie version of the aforementioned Corona Extra, which is also manufactured by Grupo Modelo and imported by Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE:STZ). Corona Light is a pilsner-style lager and is the most popular imported light beer in the U.S, with sales of $281 million.
Tecate beer is manufactured by Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma and is imported by Heineken USA. Named after the city where it is brewed, Tecate is a pale lager with 4.5% alcohol by volume. In 2016, Tecate had sales of $141.19 million.
Pacifico is a pilsner-style beer manufactured by Grupo Modelo in Mexico and named after the Pacific Ocean, on whose cost is located the city of Mazatlan, where the brewery is located. In the U.S, Pacifico is imported by Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE:STZ). Pacifico generated sales of $93.41 million in 2016, ranking as one of the 16 best selling imported beer brands in US in 2017.
9. Modelo Especial Chelada
Modelo Especial Chelada is a beer brewed in Mexico, which represents a blend of Modelo Especial with flavors of tomato, salt and lime. The Chelada originated as a drink that consumers were making at home, using beer, lime juice and assorted spices, sauces, and peppers. Grupo Modelo capitalized on that by making the Modelo Especial Chelada in a ready-to-drink can using its own Modelo Especial beer. In the U.S, it is imported by Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE:STZ) and generated sales of $88.60 million last year.
10. Tecate Light
Tecate Light is a low-calorie version of the Tecate beer made by Heineken International subsidiary Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, and imported by Heineken USA. Tecate Light has a distinct and zesty flavor and contains 3.9% alcohol by volume. In 2016, Tecate Light saw its sales amount to $80.75 million.
11. Guinness Draught
Next on the list of the 16 best selling imported beer brands in US in 2017 is Guinness, an Irish dry stout that is made by Diageo plc (ADR) (NYSE:DEO) and is imported by its subsidiary Diageo Beer Company USA. Guinness is one of the most popular beer brands worldwide, with sales of over 2oo million US gallons. It is brewed in around 50 countries and available in over 120. Diageo plc (ADR) (NYSE:DEO) is currently planning to open a brewery in the U.S, although it won’t be producing the classic Guinness Draught, but will focus on new beers developed specifically for the U.S market. Last year, Diageo plc (ADR) (NYSE:DEO) saw its sales of Guinness in the U.S amount to $58.9 million.
12. Newcastle Brown Ale
Newcastle Brown Ale is a brown ale beer that is produced at the John Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, although it was originally made in Newcastle upon Tyne. The brand is currently owned by Heineken and imported by its subsidiary Heineken USA. Newcastle Brown Ale was the most widely distributed alcoholic product in the UK at the end of the last century, but currently Heineken generates the majority of the sales in the U.S, where it’s perceived as a trendy beer preferred predominantly by young people.
13. Heineken Light
Heineken Light is the low-calorie version of the traditional Heineken and contains 98 calories per bottle, compared to 148 calories in the original Heineken. It is brewed by Heineken specifically for the U.S market and contains 3.3% alcohol by volume.
Beck’s is a brand of beer originally produced by the Beck’s Brewery located in the German city of Bremen. Beck’s Brewery is owned by Belgium-based Interbrew, which is a subsidiary of Anheuser Busch Inbev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD). However, Beck’s beer is also manufactured in the U.S, which a couple of years ago led to a lawsuit claiming that Anheuser Busch Inbev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD) misled its customers by making them believe that the beer is actually imported. Beck’s is still considered an imported beer due to its German origins, but it’s most likely that the beer sold in the U.S was produced in St. Louis, Missouri.
15. Labatt Blue
Labatt Blue is a Canadian beer produced by Labatt Brewing Company Ltd., the largest brewer in the country. Labatt Brewing Company Ltd. is owned by Anheuser Busch Inbev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD) via its Interbrew subsidiary, which acquired it in 1995. Labatt Blue is brewed in Canada and imported in by Labatt USA, which is independent from the Canadian company and is owned by the North American Breweries.
16. Labatt Blue Light
Labatt Blue Light is the low-calorie version of the Labatt Blue Canadian pilsner that is also brewed in Canada and imported by Labatt USA, part of North American Breweries, which acquired it after InBev and Anheuser-Busch agreed to combine.
These are the 16 best selling imported beer brands in US in 2017. It’s probably worth it to point out that the majority of the beer brands are owned by Anheuser Busch Inbev NV (ADR) (NYSE:BUD), while Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE:STZ) is importing a significant number of brands. Both Anheuser Busch and Constellation Brands dominate the market for imported beer, alongside Heineken.