2017 has been a big year in the world of brewing! While global beer production remained steady at 1.96 hectolitres, the number of brewing companies has quickly increased, driven by continued growth in the craft brewing sector.
A survey released by Alltech and The Brewers Journal found there are now more than 19,000 brewing companies worldwide, across 208 countries. Of these companies, an estimated 94% can be defined as craft brewing companies, with 30 or less staff or producing less than 5,000 hectolitres annually.
Although growth has been mostly in the craft beer sector, the big brewers continue to dominate the market. The top four beer makers, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Carlsberg, and China Resources Enterprise still control half of the global beer market.
These large companies have managed to retain their dominance by producing low cost beers and acquiring other breweries. This article will take a closer look at some of the largest beer companies in the world and the many brands they control.
In 2016, Anheuser Busch Inbev was the world’s largest brewer. The company reached this point through a series of mergers and acquisitions. In 2016, the company consisted of:
A large Belgium beer company that was formed in 1987 when Artois and Piedboeuf Interbrew also owned Labatt Brewing Company (founded 1847), and Beck’s (founded 1873).
A very large Brazilian brewing company that was itself created when Brazil’s two largest brewers Antarctica (founded in 1880) and Brahma (founded in 1886) merged.
The American brewer that was established in 1852 in St. Louis, Missouri.
The company has purchased many craft breweries in recent years, including Goose Island Elysian, Golden Road, Four Peaks and Wicked Weed.
Anheuser-Busch InBev became even larger in October 2016 by acquiring Sab Miller. It was a complex arrangement that was almost two years in the making and cost AB InBev £70 billion (US $107 billion). Because it created such a large company, AB InBev had to seek approval from regulatory bodies in various countries.
For the acquisition to go ahead, the company had to sell some of their beer brands. In October 2016, they sold Peroni, Meantime, and Grolsch to Japanese brewer Asahi. They also had to sell Tyskie, Lech, Pilsner Urquell, Dreher and Ursus.
In August 2017, Anheuser Busch Inbev SA/NV announced a joint venture with Turkish beverage company Anadolu Efes. This arrangement affected their Russian operations and helped to consolidate their operations. Despite selling some parts of their business, Anheuser Busch Inbev SA/NV, controls over four hundred beer brands and is by far the largest brewing company in the world.
In late 2017, the company announced that they will no longer focus on brewery acquisitions.
The most popular Anheuser Busch Inbev SA/NV beer brands include:
- Bud Light
- Stella Artois
- Labatt Family
- Alexander Keith’s beer range
- Lakeport Brewing beer range
- Kokanee beers
- Elysian Brewing Company
- Devils Backbone Brewing Company
- Four Peaks
- Golden Road
- Goose Island Brewery
- Karbach Brewing Company
Heineken is a large Dutch brewing company founded in 1864. It has grown to become one of the largest beer companies in the world, with more than 170 beer brands and 165 breweries.
In 2017, Heineken International increased its stake in the craft beer sector, buying craft beer maker Lagunitas. They also purchased Brasil Kirin, the second largest brewery in Brazil. Some of the popular beers made by Heineken include:
- Heineken Lager Beer
- Newcastle Brown Ale
- Birra Moretti
- Dos Equis XX
- Tiger Beer
Carlsberg is a Danish brewing company that was founded in 1847 by JC Jacobsen. One of Carlsberg’s first major acquisitions was the purchase of Tuborg breweries in 1970. The next big change for the company was a merger with Tetley’s brewery in 1992. Since then, they have purchased dozens of breweries around the globe.
In 2017, they purchased London Fields Brewery, a craft beer producer that makes the popular Easy IPA and Shoreditch Triangle IPA.
Some notable brands owned by the Carlsberg Group include:
- Special Brew
- Elephant Beer
- Gorkha Beer
Pabst Brewing Co.
Founded in 1844, Pabst is one of the oldest breweries in the United States and the largest American-owned brewing company. Pabst produce over 30 beers in a variety of styles. In 2014, Pabst Brewing Co. was bought by beer entrepreneur Eugene Kashper and a private equity firm. Some of the most popular Pabst Brewing co brands include:
- Past Blue Ribbon
- Colt 45
- Rainer Beer
- Lone Star
- Schaefer Beer
- Pearl Lager Beer
- National Bohemian Beer
- Schmidt’s Premium Beer
- Stag Beer
China Resource Snow Breweries Ltd (CR Snow)
CR Snow are the largest brewing company in China, creating 25.6% of the beer consumed in that country. Of the top 10 beers sold in the world, four are Chinese, with Snow leading the charge (Beverage-world.com, 2015).
Some of their popular brands include:
- Blue Sword
- Green Leaves
Disclaimer: article updated last November 2017 based on public external resources.
Beverage-world.com,. (2015). Company information – China Resources Snow Breweries, SABMiller Group (49%) – Birkner’s Beverage World. Retrieved 19 September 2015, from http://www.beverage-world.com/firmennews.php?keyfirma=2256193&sprache=us&menue=10&aktuelleseite=0
South China Morning Post. (2017). China Resources Beer posts 93.4pc surge in interim profit. [online] Available at: http://www.scmp.com/business/china-business/article/2107629/china-resources-beer-posts-934pc-surge-interim-profit-strong [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].
New Food Magazine. (2017). New survey shows 94% of world’s of world’s 19,000+ breweries are craft. [online] Available at: https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/35016/94-of-worlds-19000-breweries-are-craft/ [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].