Beer is one of the oldest beverages in the world, having been invented before written language, and is the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage on Earth. According to the Oxford Companion to Beer, beer is the third most popular drink in the world—more popular than both wine and even coffee—behind only water and tea. Beer is usually brewed from malted barley, though it can also be made from wheat, maize, or rice. The brewing of beer is a multi-stage process that first converts the starches in grain into sugars and then ferments them with yeast to produce beer.
All beers are either lagers or ales, depending on the type of yeast used during the fermentation process. Lagers are made with yeast that ferments at lower temperatures and collects at the bottom of the beer mixture, and ales are made with yeast that ferments at warmer temperatures and creates foam at the top of the fermentation chamber. Beers are further categorized by their style, which considers factors including color and appearance, flavor, aroma, strength, mouthfeel, ingredients (grains, yeasts, fruits, spices, etc.), origin, and production method. The independent Brewer's Association defines more than 150 beer styles, although most sources are somewhat less granular. Popular beer styles include pale ales, dark ales, pilsners, India pale ales (IPAs), porters, stouts, wheat beers, goses/sours, lambics, dubbels, saisons, maibocks, marzens, bitters, and more.
Top 10 Countries that Consume the Most Beer (total gallons consumed 2020):
At first glance, this ranking seems to indicate that beer consumption is roughly equal worldwide, with countries from Asia, North and South America, and Europe all making an appearance in the top 10. Indeed, beer is quite popular across most of the globe. However, as with many metrics, once the data is filtered by population and filtered per capita (per person), a more focused trend emerges.
Top 10 Countries that Consume the Most Beer per Capita (litres per person 2020):
- Czech Republic — 181.7
- Austria — 96.9
- Poland — 96.0
- Romania — 95.0
- Germany — 92.5
- Estonia — 84.4
- Namibia — 83.4
- Lithuania — 83.4
- Slovakia — 82.2
- Spain — 81.6
The countries of Europe consume more beer per person than those on any other continent in the world. The country that tops the list is the Czech Republic, with 181.7 liters consumed per capita in 2020. Beer in the Czech Republic is cheaper than bottled water (typically $1 USD for a half-litre of beer), and the country is the birthplace of the pilsner. Eight other European countries also make the list, including Germany, where many modern brewing processes and beer styles were invented. Moreover, the only non-European country in the top ten, the African country Namibia, can trace its interest in beer to the country's colonial ties with Germany. The United States ranked 17th in the world in 2020 with 72.8 litres of beer consumption per capita (full rankings viewable below).