What is the most and least popular beer style in the world in terms of number of commercial examples? Which type of beer is more popular: lager or ale? Which country has contributed most to the number of beer styles in the world?
To attempt an answer at these questions and more, we analyzed data from the popular beer rating website BeerAdvocate and provided the results below.
A Word About BeerAdvocate
As mentioned, BeerAdvocate is an online beer rating site among other things. As of this writing, the website has a database of 210,023 different commercial beers and counting, all of which are categorized under one of the existing 104 different beer styles as listed and defined by the site. BeerAdvocate clearly indicates on its website that its list and definitions of beer styles “is not the bible for beer styles, but should be viewed as a work-in-progress and a fun reference that’s open to change and interpretation.”
That said, BeerAdvocate arranges all of the beer styles it’s identified under three main categories: ale, lager and hybrid, as shown in yellow, pink and blue respectively in the chart below.
[Click on any chart to magnify.]
For clarification, the difference between ales and lagers is generally based on the type of yeast used to make the beer. Ales are fermented with what is called “top-fermenting yeast” and are typically fermented at warmer temperatures, whereas lagers are fermented at colder temperatures with “bottom-fermenting yeast.”
“Hybrid beers” sometimes refer to both ales that are fermented at colder temperatures and lagers that are fermented at warmer temperatures. However, BeerAdvocate seems to use the term “hybrid” to refer to beer styles that could be fermented with ale or larger yeast, specifically “Fruit/Vegetable Beer”, “Herbed/Spiced Beer”, and “Smoked Beer.”
As shown in the chart above, the main “ale styles” and “lager styles” categories are further sub-categorized primarily by the country in which a particular beer style originated.
For example, under the “ale styles” category, we find the sub-category of “Irish Ales” under which the following beer styles are listed:
⋅ Irish Dry Stout
⋅ Irish Red Ale
When a given commercial beer is reviewed on BeerAdvocate, that beer will always be associated with a given beer style. For example, if one were to review “Guinness Draught,” it would be associated with the “Irish Dry Stout” style of beer.
The Current Beerscape by the Numbers
Interested to gauge the current landscape of beer styles and their popularity, we took a quick look at the total number of commercial beers listed under a given beer style on BeerAdvocate’s website. First we reviewed the list of beer styles arranged in order of the greatest number of commercial examples of a given style.
The chart above lists 104 different beer styles with a grand total of 210,023 different commercial examples of those beer styles. By far, American IPA is the most popular beer style in the world in terms of commercial examples brewed (27,515). Rounding out the bottom of the list sits the sweet and sour Belgian Lambic style Faro with only 20 commercial examples to its name.
To get a big-picture view of things, we next take a look at how popular lagers are compared to ales both by number of total beer styles in each category and by the number of total commercial examples listed under those categories. (The following two charts exclude hybrid beer styles as defined by BeerAdvocate.)
The chart above shows that there are in total 27 different kinds of lager style beers (26.73%), and 74 different kinds of ale style beers (73.27%). And while lager styles make up only about a quarter of all beer styles compared to ale styles, it should be noted that one particular style of lager, namely American Adjunct Lager, dominates all other beer styles in terms of global production by volume.
The chart below takes a closer look at lagers and ales, and indicates that there are 27,197 different commercial examples of lager beer (13.39% of all commercial examples), and 175,818 examples of ale beer (or 86.60% of all commercial examples).
Part of the dominance of ale type beers over lagers may have to do with the fact that commercial lagers typically take longer to produce, and are therefore more cost-intensive as compared to most ales.
The Top 10 Beer Styles by Commercial Example
The chart below shows the top 10 most popular beer styles by the number of commercial examples listed on BeerAdvocate. Again, American IPA dominates the beerscape with 27,515 commercial examples produced, outpacing its next closest rival, American Pale Ale, by a whopping 13,750 commercial examples.
The chart below takes a closer look at the top 10 most popular beer styles with the pie chart on the left representing all 104 beer styles, and the chart on the right showing a magnified section of the top 10 beer styles.
Interestingly, the chart above shows that the 10 most popular beer styles comprise nearly half (45.87%) of all beer styles, including hybrids. To put it another way, of all the 210,023 commercial examples of beer listed on BeerAdvocate, 96,340 belong to only ten different beer styles, suggesting that although there is a great diversity of beers styles (104 listed styles), there are much fewer commercial examples of this diversity actually produced.
Also of note, the data above reflects that 9 out of 10 of the top 10 beer styles are American beer styles.
To attempt to explain this seemingly lopsided beerscape leaning in favor of American beer styles, let’s consider a few more data points including beer style data and analysis per country to see if American styles are simply crushing it, or if this is all just a numbers game.