Beer Syndicate Blog

Data Chug: Analysis of The Most Popular Beer Styles in the World

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.

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Beer Styles by Country of Origin

The following chart shows that the U.S. leads the world in total number of beer styles contributed with 29, followed by Germany at 22, The British with 19, Belgian & French with 18, the Scottish with 3, the Irish and Japanese with 2 each, and lastly the Czechs, Finnish and Russians each with 1.

As we can see above, there are more American beer styles than those native to any other country.  However this fact alone does not explain why out of 104 different beer styles it is American beer styles that dominate the top 9 out of 10 positions in terms of commercial examples.

This apparent disproportion is even easier to see in the chart below that shows the total number of commercial examples by beer styles native to a given country.

As the chart above indicates, there are 111,293 commercial examples of American beer styles which represents 55.87% of the total number of commercial examples above.  This means that the number of commercial examples of American beer styles are greater than all other non-American beer styles combined.

Considering that the number of commercial examples of the beer styles listed above may be affected by the number of breweries in that particular country, we next look to identify the total number of breweries in those respective countries in the following chart as per BeerAdvocate, Feb. 2018.

As suspected, the U.S. leads with 6,731 breweries, followed by England with 1,983, Germany with 1,413, Belgium & France with 753 ( 346 and 407 respectively), Russia with 255, Scotland at 216*, Japan with 194, the Czech Republic with 147, Ireland with 83, and Finland with 60.  (* Scotland was separated from the U.K. in the chart above for illustrative purposes and is not currently an independent country.)

Adding up all the non-U.S. breweries on the chart totals 5,104, which is still less than the 6,731 breweries in the U.S. by a figure of 1,627 breweries.  This means that U.S. breweries represent 56.87% of the total breweries listed, which is remarkably close to the percentage of commercial examples of American beer styles (55.87%) compared to the total number of all commercial examples of non-American beer styles.

From the number of breweries per country, especially in the U.S., we can begin to develop a stronger hypothesis for why U.S. beer styles dominate in terms of commercial examples— there are simply more breweries in the U.S. producing more commercial examples of American styles of beer.

Of course this begs the question: Is the U.S. really dominating, relatively speaking, after we account for the number breweries there are per country?   Not necessarily.

For example, when we look at the total number of breweries per country in comparison to the number of beer styles native to those respective countries, we see that the U.S. has actually produced relatively few beer styles as compared to most other countries as shown in the chart below.

Notice that relative to the number of breweries in the chart above, the U.S. is almost dead last in terms of the total number of beer styles contributed, sitting just above Russia.

However, it is more difficult to calculate the total number of commercial examples of a given native beer style relative to the number of breweries in its country of origin because different countries commonly produce commercial examples of non-native beer styles.

Take for example the Finnish beer style known as Sahti where only 10 of the 74 commercial examples listed on BeerAdvocate are actually brewed by Finnish breweries.

That said,  the dominance of American beer styles in terms of commercial examples is strongly correlated with the number of breweries in the U.S. relative to other countries, which suggests that the volume of American beer styles may actually be on par proportionally with the volume of other beer styles native to the other countries listed above.


Next on tap: Data Chug: An Analysis of BeerAdvocate’s Top 250 Beers

[expand title=”Disclaimer: (Click to Expand)“]

While the data obtained from BeerAdvocate is taken at face value for the purposes of this analysis, one is well within reason to further analyze that source data in terms of the completeness of the listed beer styles, definitions of those styles, appropriate beer style grouping for the given commercial examples, verification of actual breweries in production, etc.  In addition, considering that much of the data collected by BeerAdvocate is added by its users, one may further wish to question how that user group may affect the overall data (% of English-speakers, % of American users, etc.).

Also, the methods and parameters of data analysis herein are but one way of looking at the given information. Furthermore, all of the data collected from BeerAdvocate occurred in Feb. 2018, and therefore represents a single time-slice of the beer landscape, which of course is subject to change in the future.

Lastly, interpretation of the data above is up to the individual, for as the old adage goes, there’s more than one way to brew a beer.


Hi, I’m Dan: Beer Editor for Beer Syndicate, Beer and Drinking Blogger, Beer Judge, Gold Medal-Winning Homebrewer, Beer Reviewer, American Homebrewers Association Member, Shameless Beer Promoter, and Beer Traveler.

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