Which countries produce the most beer? Which countries drink the most? Which nation is the drunkest? If you've ever wondered about these questions, this post is for you.
|Beer is the world's third-most popular beverage, after water and tea.|
I obtained most of my data from the Kirin Institute of Food and Lifestyle, which has been collecting and publishing beer production and consumption data since 1975. When I checked a Wikipedia article on beer consumption, Kirin was listed as the source, but the article on Wikipedia contains several errors, including one which moved Canada up 18 places in the worldwide per capita beer consumption rankings.
|This ancient Egyptian model of a brewery is over 4,000 years old.|
Chemical evidence reveals that beer existed at least 7,000 years ago in ancient Iran.
Let's look at beer production first. According to Kirin, the top ten beer producing countries in 2010 by total volume were:
- China (44,252,936 m³)
- USA (22,898,177 m³)
- Brazil (12,769,662 m³)
- Russia (10,240,000 m³)
- Germany (9,568,300 m³)
- Mexico (7,988,900 m³)
- Japan (5,850,450 m³)
- United Kingdom (4,499,700 m³)
- Poland (3,600,000 m³)
- Spain (3,337,500 m³)
Canada was 18th with 1,964,700 m³. One cubic metre is equal to 1,000 litres, which is about 2,933 bottles (341 mL bottles). In other words, Canada produced over 5.7 billion bottles worth of beer in 2010, about 8.6% of what the Americans produced and only about 4.4% of the amount of beer produced by the Chinese. I created a pie chart to visualize how much each of the top beer-producing countries contribute to the world's beer supply. As you can see, the top five beer-producing countries account for more than half of the world's beer.
|Half of the top 25 beer-producing countries contribute only about 1% each to the world's total beer production.|
Not surprisingly, it turns out that the countries producing the most beer tend to also be consuming the most beer. According to Kirin, the ten largest consumers of beer in 2010 were:
- China (44,683,000 m³)
- USA (24,138,000 m³)
- Brazil (12,170,000 m³)
- Russia (9,389,000 m³)
- Germany (8,787,000 m³)
- Mexico (6,419,000 m³)
- Japan (5,813,000 m³)
- United Kingdom (4,587,000 m³)
- Spain (3,251,000 m³)
- Poland (3,215,000 m³)
As you can see, all of the top ten beer-producing countries were also the top ten beer-consuming countries, the only difference being that Poland and Spain traded 9th and 10th places. Canada consumed 2,311,000 m³ of beer in 2010, which placed us at 14th in the world. Here's another pie chart, this time showing consumption.
|More than half of the world's beer is being drunk in just five countries.|
Overall, this chart is pretty similar to the previous one. Some interesting changes are that Netherlands and Belgium, the 14th and 20th biggest beer-producers, respectively, don't even crack the top 25 when it comes to beer consumption. Apparently the Dutch like to sell beer abroad much more than they like drinking the stuff. Similarly, Argentina, which didn't appear among the 25 biggest producers, is the 20th biggest consumer of beer worldwide. This gave me the idea of looking at relative national beer surplus or deficit, shown below:
|Belgium produces more than twice the amount of beer that it consumes.|
It looks like most countries we've looked at consume roughly the same amount of beer they produce. Seventeen of the 26 countries shown consume within 10% of what they produce. Netherlands and Belgium are interesting because they each consume only about half of the amount of beer that they produce, a much larger disparity than any of the other countries I have data for. The French had the largest relative beer deficit, consuming about 26% more beer than they produce. We Canadians also have an appreciable beer deficit, drinking 18% more beer than we produce.
Now to answer the most important question of all: which country's beer consumption has their population most intoxicated? To answer this, we need to look at beer consumption per capita. China's total beer consumption might be about 19 times that of Canada's, but they've also got about 40 times more people to do the drinking. Based on the 2010 data from Kirin, the ten countries boasting the top beer-drinking peoples are:
- Czech Republic (131.7 L/person/year)
- Germany (106.8 L/person/year)
- Austria (105.8 L/person/year)
- Ireland (103.7 L/person/year)
- Estonia (90.6 L/person/year)
- Lithuania (85.7 L/person/year)
- Poland (83.6 L/person/year)
- Australia (83.4 L/person/year)
- Venezuela (83.0 L/person/year)
- Finland (82.7 L/person/year)
This chart shows the top 35 consumers of beer per capita:
|Americans, and most Europeans, drink more beer than us.|
You might be wondering what happened to China, the country drinking the biggest share of the world's beer. Because of their large population, they rank only 49th in terms of beer consumption per capita. Canada was only 23rd with 68.4 L/person/year (not 5th with 98.5 L/person/year as Wikipedia had first led me to believe). Czech Republic's 131.7 L/person/year is really quite impressive when you realize this works out to an average of a little more than a bottle of beer per day! In one year, the average Czech drinks 107 more Imperial pints of beer than the average Canadian. We can't even take pride in beating the Americans; they were 12th with 78.2 L/person/year. My guess is that Americans, having been brainwashed into believing that baseball is a noteworthy pastime and not wishing for others to see them as "un-American", have to drink a lot of beer in order to suffer through all the baseball games they watch. I mean, I'd drink more too if I thought I had to watch dozens of 3-hour games of baseball to prove my allegiance to my country.
|Watching baseball's only slightly more entertaining than watching golf.|
Of course, not all beer has the same alcohol content. Americans like light beers with comparatively low alcohol content. Eastern Europeans generally tend to prefer stronger beers. So perhaps you're wondering if there are any stats on the actual quantity of alcohol consumed from beer-drinking? The answer is 'yes'. The World Health Organization's Global Health Observatory makes global data related to several health topics readily available to anyone. This includes the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health. They've been collecting their own per capita beer consumption data, but report it in terms of litres of pure alcohol per year, which is a better indicator of which countries are the most intoxicated from their beer-drinking. According to WHO, the ten countries most drunk on beer in 2010 were:
- Czech Republic (6.79 litres of pure alcohol per person per year)
- Austria (6.10 L/person/year)
- Germany (6.01 L/person/year)
- Lithuania (6.00 L/person/year)
- Poland (5.90 L/person/year)
- Ireland (5.73 L/person/year)
- Serbia (5.01 L/person/year)
- Spain (4.87 L/person/year)
- Estonia (4.68 L/person/year)
- Slovenia (4.59 L/person/year)
Here's yet another bar chart, this time plotted using the data from WHO.
|On average, Czechs get more than 101 Calories/day from the alcohol in the beer they drink.|
There are some apparent discrepancies between the Kirin and WHO data sets. For instance, Serbians aren't even in the top 35 beer-drinking peoples according to Kirin, but are 7th on WHO's list. Spain also shows up 8th on WHO's list but was only 22nd on Kirin's list. I doubt that the Spanish are drinking such strong beer that it would make up the difference. But for the most part, the two lists agree pretty well. The Czechs are still decisively ahead of everyone else, followed most closely by Austria and Germany. It appears that the American taste for light beer sends them down to 16th place with 4.28 L/person/year. Canadians on the other hand move up to 18th place with 4.20 L/person/year.
- China produces and consumes nearly one quarter of the world's beer
- Canada isn't as big of a beer-drinking nation as some of us would like to believe
- Don't challenge a Czech to a beer-drinking contest