Drinks

12 of the Most Popular Beers Around the World

January  7, 2016

Any beer lover (or traveller, or traveling beer lover) knows they're saying salud with Corona in the cantinas of Mexico, cooling off with Red Stripe in Jamaica, and waiting for their Guinness to settle in the pubs of Ireland. But what beers are they drinking in the rest of the world?

Left to right: Lucky Buddha from China, Einstock from Iceland, Asaha from Japan, Kingfisher from India, and a Russian ale. Photo by Mark Weinberg

While the U.S. brewery count is at a record high, hovering just above 4,000 and comprised mostly of small, independent brewers, the most popular beer here remains Bud Light. (And sometimes, we’re ok with that.) Similarly, in so many other countries around the world, pale lagers reign supreme. Refreshing and thirst-quenching with typically low alcohol levels, these beers are prevailingly appealing, as proven by their ubiquity in their respective countries.

Whether you’re planning a trip abroad and want to sample the local favorite, or just hope to pair your spicy Vindaloo with the most authentic brew (many are imported here!), here are the most popular beers around the world, by country and what to serve with each:

Photo by Mark Weinberg

India: Kingfisher

Brewed in Bangalore, Kingfisher Premium holds the number one beer spot in India and is available in over 55 other countries (we found it available in several stores here in New York!). Kingfisher sponsors several cricket teams, and its label art features the eponymous bird, a mascot the brand asserts “is known for its keen instinct and perfect aim” and represents “youthfulness, enthusiasm, freedom with a touch of formality and discipline.”

What to eat with it: Whatever this bird’s strengths, this pale lager is a refreshing foil for curries and other spicy Indian dishes.

Japan: Asahi

While Sapporo is the number one selling Asian beer in the U.S. and the oldest brewed beer in Japan, Asahi Super Dry currently reigns as the most popular in Japan.

What to eat with it: Apropos of its name, this crisp, super dry brew won’t overpower delicate fish dishes, so Salarymen can sip Asahi with their sushi.

Italy: Birra Moretti

Birra Moretti was first brewed in Udine in 1859, and the brewing process remains largely the same today. At the relatively low 4.6% ABV, Italians can enjoy this pale lager with lunch and still make it back to work.

What to eat with it: This beer is delicious paired with simple pastas, pizzas, and salads.

Iceland: Viking

Can you think of a more fitting name for an Icelandic brew? Viking is another lager, clocking in at 4.5% ABV. Fun fact: beer with an ABV over 2.25% was prohibited for years in Iceland. The ban was lifted on March 1, 1989, and now the country marks that day every year with a national ‘Beer Day’ celebration. Skál!

What to eat with it: Pair one with a pylsur—a lamb-based sausage with pork and beef similar to a hot dog—for an Icelandic take on the quintessentially American ballpark meal.

Thailand: Chang

Meaning ‘elephant’ in Thai, Chang beer recently unseated Singha (pronounced ‘sing’) as Thailand’s most popular. Chang is brewed by the aptly named ThaiBev, headquartered in Bangkok.

What to eat with it: Both Chang and Singha are pale lagers, which means they’ll go well with spicy Som Tam or flavorful Thai Curry Noodles with Shrimp.

Czech Republic: Gambrinus

Named after a king of Flanders with legendary brewing skills, Gambrinus is a classic Czech Pilsner (aka Lager) with a 4.3% ABV. The Czech Republic is the birthplace of Pilsner, where it was first brewed in 1842, and the country also boasts the highest beer consumption per capita in the world. No big deal.

What to eat with it: Drink Gambrinus to wash down hearty meat-based dishes like whole goose and all those other kingly dishes...

Belgium: Jupiler

Perhaps the most surprising on the list, Belgium’s most popular beer isn’t a Belgian Pale Ale, Dubbel, or Saison. Nope, it’s a Pale Lager.

What to eat with it: Jupiler is 5.2% ABV and can be used as an ingredient to make mussels, or just to sip while eating them.

China: Snow

China’s top selling beer is also the world’s, which makes sense considering China has the world’s largest population at over 1.3 billion people. Snow beer is a pale lager, described by its brewer as “bright, almost transparent in nature” with a “pure white foam"—like actual snow or "snowflake," the literal translation of the Chinese characters.

What to eat with it: Clean and crisp, Snow beer can accompany rice or noodle dishes featuring hot Sichuan pepper or aromatic ginger, garlic, or soy sauce.

Russia: Baltika

Unsurprisingly, beer is only the second most popular alcoholic beverage in Russia, behind vodka. This European Lager is brewed in St. Petersburg and exported to over 50 other countries.

What to eat with it: Sip a Baltika No. 7 (the most popular of the brewery’s many offerings) with your next plate of blini, or another dish appropriately Romanov.

Australia: Victoria Bitter

Despite its name, Victoria Bitter is a smooth, crisp lager first brewed in 1854. The distinctive, short-necked bottle is referred to as a "stubby," while Australians call the cans "tinnies" and the 750ml bottles "tallies." Also in keeping with the Australian penchant for assigning everything a fun nickname (see also: Oz), Victoria Bitter goes by VB, Vic Bitter, Vitamin B, and Victory Beer.

What to eat with it: It’s brewed in Melbourne and goes perfectly with any beach (or beachy foods eaten next to a soothing wave machine).

Brazil: Skol

While widely recognized as a Brazilian beer, this pale lager was originally conceived and brewed in the UK. The name Skol comes from Skål, the Scandinavian word for cheers.

What to eat with it: Raise a glass with a some Brazilian snacks like Pão de queijo (cheese bread), Coxinha (chicken croquette), or Pastéis (a Brazilian version of a hot pocket - fried with meat or cheese)—the carbonation will cut through the fat.

Kenya: Tusker Lager

First brewed in 1922, Kenya Breweries pale lager gets its name from the tragic death of its co-founder George Hurst, who was trampled to death by an elephant while on a hunting trip. The beer memorializes Hurst, and is created with 100% African ingredients.

What to eat with it: A classic North or East African dish—eaten a safe proximity away from lions.

What are your favorite international beers? Tell us in the comments below!

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15 Comments

Carly H. January 12, 2016
so many pale lagers.. I guess that's a worldwide favorite.
 
Sarah J. January 10, 2016
And in Indonesia: BINTANG!
 
Lindsay-Jean H. January 8, 2016
Baird Beer and Hitachino Nest Beer from Japan.
 
KathBergh January 8, 2016
I'm quite surprised with Belgium and Czech Republic.. Gambrinus is the beer that you'll get on football matches, the one that everyone likes to avoid and is perhaps popular just because of its super low price. And as for Belgium, what can I say... this is a country of great beers, and you pick a student beer Jupiler? I'd advise you to come to Belgium yourself and try out some less "popular" but tastier beers.
 
Leslie S. January 8, 2016
These are just the most popular beers, not necessarily the best! Looks like the students are the ones drinking the most!
 
KathBergh January 8, 2016
I've realized that after reading other comments, but overall its a nice article to sum up the most popular beers.
 
creamtea January 7, 2016
Oh, we love Weihenstephaner from Germany (the cloudy one, can't think of the exact name). It tastes a little like toasted warm spices.
 
Niknud January 7, 2016
Ooo, I miss the Baltika! Used to get it with shashleek and half a naan for lunch from the street vendors when I was living in Tashkent. Good times; great article!
 
GsR January 7, 2016
Clearly popularliy is no guarantee of quality.
 
AntoniaJames January 7, 2016
Kingfisher has been the beer of choice for decades in many Indian restaurants in the SF Bay Area. It's utterly perfect with Indian food as well as Middle Eastern, North African and Southeast Asian dishes. Glad to see that beer drinkers in 55 countries agree! ;o)
 
Lissa M. January 7, 2016
Jupiler is the beer they serve out of vending machines in Belgium. It's a poor recommendation for travelers in a country that features incredible brewing heritage and hundreds of world-class brews. Why not go with a classic like the Westmalle Tripel?
 
AntoniaJames January 7, 2016
Lissa, I agree on all counts. Very well said. ;o)
 
Lissa M. January 7, 2016
Thanks Antonia. I guess I disagree with the author that "most popular" is a good standard for picking beer to pair with yummy food. If we go by the most popular beer by sales in the US, for example, it would probably be Bud Lite. I'd rather drink water with my meal.
 
AntoniaJames January 7, 2016
Lissa, seriously, yes. ;o)
 
Leslie S. January 8, 2016
Hi Lissa you're very right that the most popular beer in the US is Bud Light, as we mention in the introduction! Which is why it's fun to look at the most popular beers in other countries, even though they are of course not an indication of quality and we don't suggest that they're a good standard, just fun to consider! My own favorite Belgian beer is Duchesse De Bourgogne (among a million others!).