As any enthusiast can tell you, now is definitely a great time for beer lovers. Indeed, it seems that drinkers are never too far away from something new, sudsy, and delicious. That’s in no small part thanks to a broad legion of craft breweries popping up throughout America’s cities and towns, with new ones entering the fray on what seems to be a weekly basis. It’s therefore no surprise that craft beers grew in terms of sales in 2017, as did imports and what the industry dubs “super premiums.” Domestic premium names like Budweiser, Miller Lite and Coors Light, meanwhile, saw dips to the tune of 2.9%.
Of course, just because flagship products from brands like Coors and Budweiser didn’t sell as well as they did in previous years, that doesn’t mean they didn’t sell. On the contrary, sales of domestic premium beers topped $13 billion in 2017, as Americans still by and large prefer to stick with the names and flavors they know and trust (even when a significant portion of their favorite brands are owned by foreign companies).
All this talk about beer might be making you thirsty. It might also have you wondering which brands sold the most beer in 2017. While Stacker can’t necessarily put a six-pack in your hands, we did take it upon ourselves to list out the 20 best-selling beer brands in America. The list was created using 2017 Statista data that shows the sales of leading domestic beer brands in the United States. The top 20 brands were then ranked from smallest to largest sales. So sit back, pop the top on your brewski of choice, and see who sold the most beer in 2017. The answers may (or may not) surprise you.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $70,200,000
In 1922, a German tavern owner didn’t want to run out of good suds while serving thirsty cyclists who’d just competed in a race, so he cut his beer with lemonade and soda in order to increase his supply. That same technique would later inspire Leinenkugel’s to infuse their own product with natural lemonade flavor when crafting a range of refreshing shandy beers. However, it wasn’t until the brand was acquired in 1988 by Miller Brewing that sales truly soared into the stratosphere.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $76,000,000
Taking inspiration from the neighboring majestic mountain range, Ken Grossman launched Sierra Nevada in 1980 with the goal of bringing home-brewed flavor to a massive audience. To this day, the brand remains one of the largest and most successful private craft breweries in the country, largely thanks to its popular Pale Ale. In addition to its emphasis on quality, Sierra Nevada is likewise committed to environmental friendly practices—it was named “Green Business of the Year” by the EPA in 2010.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $80,800,000
Samuel Adams (also known as Sam Adams) might sound like a lager that’s been around for centuries, but its parent brand, Boston Beer Company, wasn’t in fact founded until 1984. That was when co-founder Jim Koch used his great-great grandfather’s recipe to create a flagship beer that was simultaneously smooth, full-bodied and complex. The brand sticks closely to its roots as a craft brewery, and enjoys a massive following as a result—though it’s been hurt in recent times by an onslaught of competition from smaller breweries.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $84,000,000
In 1876, Budweiser became an instant success by offering beer that was much lighter than the fare of the time, making it a favorite during hot summer months. Bud Light Platinum retains the brand’s signature light flavor and effervescent body while delivering a higher ABV count and a slightly sweeter taste. Available in eye-catching bottles of cobalt blue, Bud Light Platinum is one Budweiser’s lesser sellers, though $84 million in sales is nothing to sneeze at.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $97,500,000
In the mid-90s, Americans saw a surge of “ice beers”, which are brewed at freezing temperatures and commonly both higher in strength and lower in cost than their mainstream counterparts. To this day, Anheuser-Busch’s Natural Ice remains a top seller. While most beer drinkers would agree that “Natty Ice” isn’t exactly smooth or flavorful, it’s hard to argue with an economic price tag and 5.9% ABV.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $119,200,000
Backed by a $35 million marketing campaign, Bud Light Lime launched in 2008 to wildly successful results. The product is light in both booze and carbs, with a 4.2% ABV and just 116 calories per bottle. If you’re enthusiastic about citrusy light domestics, you’ll be happy to know that Budweiser recently introduced Bud Light Orange, brewed with real orange peels.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $124,600,000
German brewing apprentice Adolph Coors came to America to make beer, but wasn’t ready to officially start until he found the ideal water supply. That brought him to Golden, Colorado, where he established what would one day become the largest single-site brewery in the world. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 1991 that Coors was available in all 50 states. Coors Light remains the brand’s best seller, but regular Coors Banquet—the company’s initial offering, reportedly named by the coal miners who first started drinking it—still touts some impressive sales numbers.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $128,200,000
Started in 1844 in Milwaukee, “PBR” has garnered a reputation as the beer of choice among thrifty drinkers from all walks of life. Available in a bottle, but most often seen in the form of tallboy can, the beer delivers straightforward taste with a light citrus touch. Fun fact: there was period of about twenty-five years in which Pabst used to tie a literal ribbon around the neck of every bottle of Pabst Select. Nowadays, an iconic graphic suffices.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $149,700,000
America’s oldest operating brewery, Yuengling was founded in 1829 by German immigrant David Gottlob Yuengling. During Prohibition, the brand stayed in business by selling three different types of “near beers,” each of which featured a supremely low ABV. Popular on its own—or when mixed with a stout or porter for a Black and Tan—Yuengling Traditional Lager is amber in color and medium-bodied in taste.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $160,200,000
Owned by MillerCoors Brewing Company, Keystone Light was introduced in 1989 as light-bodied, less-bitter beer. Over the years, the brand has relied on clever marketing campaigns to make sure it remains popular. One of the more successful campaigns introduced fictional character Keith Stone, a smooth operator with a case of Keystone Light always tucked under his arm. Meanwhile, at least one man actually named Keith Stone might have taken some of those advertisements to heart, driving his car into a house in 2013 after more than a few too many.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $164,200,000
Inspired by citrusy Belgian witbiers that commonly infuse Curaçao orange peel during the brewing process, brewmaster Keith Villa crafted his own version in 1995—using Valencia orange peel and a hint of coriander, plus oats and wheat for a creamy texture. He then served it with an orange garnish and called it Blue Moon Belgian White Ale. The beer has been raking in hundreds of millions of dollars ever since, accounting for a significant percentage of MillerCoors’ bottom line.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $194,800,000
First introduced in 1955 as Busch Bavarian Beer, Busch Beer dropped the “Bavarian” over the years while keeping its formula intact. This light-tasting lager comes in at 4.3% ABV—and as Anheuser-Busch’s economy brand, it offers an even lower price point than Budweiser.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $195,900,000
Launched in 1903, Miller’s flagship brew came in a longneck bottle right when bottled beer was starting to take off. To make sure the beer’s taste matched its refreshing appearance, Miller developed its own light-stable Galena Hops just for the High Life recipe. As for the brand’s claim that High Life is the “Champagne of Beers,” it’s mostly due to the fact that their bottles took design cues from champagne bottles.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $321,900,000
Even more popular than the original, Busch Light features a 4.1% ABV and just 95 calories per can. To achieve that lighter taste and lower calorie count, the beer is brewed longer than its regular counterpart. This pale lager was first introduced in 1989 and has been earning millions ever since.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $336,200,000
Made using a mix of water, barley, malt cereal grains, yeast and hops, Natural Light delivers 4.2% ABV and 95 calories per serving. Thanks to its affordable price tag, the American-style lager is a big hit on college campuses; in a nod to its demographic, the brand recently held a contest to help 25 winners pay off their college debts.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $631,700,000
Anheuser-Busch continues to dominate the list with Michelob Ultra, a light and refreshing beer aimed at drinkers who lead healthy, active lifestyles. It first debuted in 2002, bolstered by the tagline “Lose the carbs. Not the taste.” That made it a big draw at a time when carbohydrate-averse diets like Atkins were gaining popularity. As a result of such expertly targeted marketing, Michelob Ultra experienced impressive sales growth in relatively little time, even as similar brands struggle to grow in today’s oversaturated environment.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $717,800,000
Few names are more synonymous with American beer than Budweiser (although it’s now owned by a foreign company). Nevertheless, Americans still flock to this beer in droves, even if sales aren’t necessarily as healthy as they once were. Much of the brand’s success goes back to a man named Adolphus Busch, who implemented a slew of innovative business practicesbefore passing away in 1913.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $899,200,000
In 1967, biochemist Joseph L. Owades, PhD was working for a brewery when he invented a way to remove the starch from beer. The result was “Gablinger's Diet Beer,” which failed to find an audience over the following few years. Eventually, Owades’ recipe ended up the hands of Miller Beer, who redubbed it as “Lite” and unleashed it upon the world—proving that branding is everything.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $1,064,600,000
Coors Light was “born in the Rockies” in 1978, branded to evoke a clean, refreshing taste. Made using high country barley, the brew is lagered at below freezing temperatures and cold-filtered as well. Even in the age of strong IPAs and dense porters, sales numbers show there’s still plenty of room for Coors Light at the table.
Sales in U.S. dollars: $2,031,000,000
Driven by savvy marketing and a ubiquitous association with athletics, Bud Light sells in astounding numbers year after year—the brand is technically in a state of freefall despite more than two billion dollars in annual sales. Suffice to say, there’s a long way to go before hitting rock bottom; until then, Bud Light can uphold its title as “the world’s favorite beer” (or at least America’s).