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The best selling US beers, circa 2007

Commenting in another thread, Stonch asked: I’d be interested to know what the top ten selling American craft beers are? Does anyone have that info?

The lists I put together got too long to put in a comment. They are not perfect. They are based on data from Information Resources Inc. (IRI), which uses scanner data to track sales of consumer package goods in a variety of channels, but not every drop of beer sold. Their strength is in supermarkets, drug stores and convenience stores, which is where most people in the United States buy beer.

They don’t count everything sold in specialty retail stores (though some) or on draft (and certainly not in brewpubs, which account for about 10% of craft sales). They are not the only source out there — you will often seen Nielsen quoted — but supply data that corresponds quite well with the yearly figures the Brewers Association supplies. So I think they can be trusted.

BEST SELLING CRAFT BEERS
1 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
2 Samuel Adams Boston Lager
3 Blue Moon White
4 Samuel Adams Seasonal
5 New Belgium Fat Tire
6 Samuel Adams Light
7 Shiner Bock
8 Widmer Hefeweizen
9 Samuel Adams Brewmasters Collection
10 Redhook ESB
11 Pyramid Hefeweizen
12 Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale
13 Redhook IPA
14 Alaskan Amber
15 Deschutes Black Butte Porter

For perspective, seven imports outsell SNPA (Corona Extra, Heineken, Corona Light, Tecate, Heineken Light, Guinness and Modelo) and Newcastle Brown is nipping at the heals of Boston Lager. Also, Rolling Rock and Killian’s Red would rank fourth and fifth on the list above.

Pretty much an aside: The top two selling beers in the “super premium” category (high priced beer but seldom costing as much as craft beer) are Michelob Ultra Light and Michelob Light. The original Michelob ranks seventh on this list (behind Michelob Amber Bock), selling basically the same amount of beer in these channels — and I suspect not quite as much overall — at Fat Tire.

Think about it. The flagship from small brewery founded in the basement of a Fort Collins, Colo., house in 1991 now outsells what was once the super premium beer in America. Hold that smile — even after you read the final list. [End of aside.]

The best selling styles, recognizing that few beers even broadly described as “extreme” reach these channels (I can buy Stone Ruination, the Jolly Pumpkin beers, Avery and others at Whole Foods but not Albertson’s):

1 Pale Ale
2 Seasonals
3 Amber
4 Amber Lager
5 Wheat
6 IPA

Finally, a bit more perspective . . .

BEST SELLING BEERS OVERALL
1 Bud Light
2 Miller Lite
3 Budweiser
4 Coors Light
5 Corona Extra
6 Heineken
7 Natural Light
8 Michelob Ultra Light
9 Busch Light
10 Miller High Life

Miller High Life sold three times more beer in the first half of 2007 as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

15 Responses to The best selling US beers, circa 2007

  1. David October 23, 2007 at 12:52 pm #

    Interesting lists. I’m actually a little surprised that SNPA tops SABL. I guess it must be the East Coast bias…I see SABL much more than SNPA at parties and such.

    Natural Light…that brings back some memories.

  2. SteveH October 23, 2007 at 1:17 pm #

    I can account for some of the sales on 5 of the 15 crafts in the past year. And zero of the Overall Best Sellers. Sad state of affairs.

  3. Loren October 24, 2007 at 4:13 am #

    Kind of surprised to see Deschutes on that list and not a Rogue offering. Good for them.

  4. Stonch October 24, 2007 at 6:14 am #

    Thanks for doing this Stan.

    I’m surprised that Brooklyn Lager isn’t in the top 15 crafts. My reasons are that (a) it’s an absolutely fantastic beer (b) it’s from New York (which I would expect to help).

    I suppose it’s just because I’m used to seeing Brooklyn a lot over here. Out of the top 15, we only see 1 & 2 in Britain – I’ve heard of all the others but never laid eyes on a bottle, let alone tried them.

  5. Eric Trimmer October 24, 2007 at 6:27 am #

    Stonch,

    Brooklyn’s a pretty tiny brewery.

    I’m surprised you see their beer so often.

    Do you ever see it outside of London?

  6. Stan Hieronymus October 24, 2007 at 6:34 am #

    Loren – Deschutes produced 159,000 barrels, while Rogue was at 52,000 (less than New Glarus). Alaskan is the smallest with a beer on the list (106,000).

    Eric – The Brooklyn sold in the UK – as all Brooklyn beers except the new Local One – is brewed at FX Matt. Brooklyn sold 58,000 barrels in 2006, about 80% of that made at Matt.

  7. Jeff October 24, 2007 at 10:27 am #

    It’s interesting to compare sales with visibility. Rogue has national distribution, so is more well-known that Deschutes, but Deschutes has been growing fantastically fast. You look in any fridge in Portland and the most likely beer you’ll see is Deschutes.

    A quibble on the list: “Sam Adams Seasonal” and “brewmasters reserve” slots are suspect. I get how you got there, but that represents more than one beer, which doesn’t represent “best selling” quite accurately. I’d like to see them bumped and the 16th and 17th added to the list. Also, you might scrap Blue Moon and Shiner, but those are also quibbles.

  8. Stan Hieronymus October 24, 2007 at 12:09 pm #

    Jeff, IRI obviously is interested in SKUs – thus the Sam Adams packages.

    Their list only went 15 deep, but (following the guidelines the Brewers Association laid out and I don’t agree with) listed Blue Moon as super premium. I moved it into the craft list and bumped out No. 15 – New Belgium seasonal.

    I think the seasonal listings do remind us people are looking for variety.

  9. Loren October 25, 2007 at 3:59 am #

    “It’s interesting to compare sales with visibility. Rogue has national distribution, so is more well-known that Deschutes, but Deschutes has been growing fantastically fast. You look in any fridge in Portland and the most likely beer you’ll see is Deschutes.”

    Says a LOT for expansion wants and needs, or lack thereof. Good on them to focus locally though.

  10. Stonch October 25, 2007 at 4:02 am #

    Eric – yes – Brooklyn Lager is sold out of London. It’s listed nationally by Sainsbury’s and Tesco, two of our biggest supermarket chains. Other places sell it too.

  11. Dan Taylor October 26, 2007 at 5:57 am #

    Very interesting list and I agree with the comments about East Coast bias. I would have definitely thought that SA outsold Sierra Nevada. Really glad to see Black Butte Porter in the Top 15. Had this when I was at the Freaking Frog in Vegas a year or so ago. One of the owners told my brother and me that it was the perfect porter if we were planning on having “a session”. When our “session” was complete about eight hours after we arrived we had a new favorite beer. Unfortunately, I can’t get it in stores here and have had to have it shipped from the outside world.

  12. Wally November 16, 2007 at 6:10 am #

    I could not figure how Shiner Bock made the list till a recent trip to Texas.
    When I asked whats on draft the answer was, we have all kinds, There is Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Mich Ultra and Shiner Bock.
    Shiner Bock please.

  13. steve peters February 14, 2008 at 10:39 am #

    has miller products ever out sold budweiser

  14. Stan Hieronymus February 14, 2008 at 11:53 am #

    Perhaps in the 19th century before anybody began widespread distribution. Miller was just one of many breweries in a tier below A-B until Philip Morris bought it in the 1970s.

  15. Brian Cobb March 23, 2009 at 8:00 pm #

    As of 3-23-09 miller is ranked right above the budweiser brand. This trend is due to A-B’s huge market failure with bud-select. It canobolized budweisers strength by playing the “same taste, less calories” card. Miller lite on the other hand jumped from #4 in 2006 to #2 present. Simply by doing the old “pepsi challenge” with bud light. It compared itself to the #1 selling beer in the world, and grabbed a few rankings. If I had to hypothesis’ about Miller lite ever reaching #1, I would say they need to strike while the iron’s hot….

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