Special Report

America's Favorite Beers

It may be about time Budweiser relinquished its title as “King of Beers.” According to the recently released 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend Rankings, there is a new batch of brews with stronger brand equity, customer connections and buzz. 24/7 Wall St. has examined the report, identifying the 10 beers with the strongest brands.

Read America’s Favorite Beers

The beer brands with the greatest strength — a measure of familiarity, quality, purchase consideration, trust and the ability to generate buzz — are largely more expensive brews. Nine of the 10 are among the most expensive beers out of the country’s 20 best-selling beers. The beer that is not one of the most expensive, Yuengling, is not far behind in price.

American consumers also are spending more on these beers. Dollar sales of every beer on the list has increased from one year prior. Yuengling, Blue Moon and Modelo Especial have had the largest increases among all popular beer brands. Meanwhile, many other brands, including Budweiser by Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD), Keystone Light and Natural Light, experienced decreases over this same period. Sales of Bud Light Lime dropped nearly 7% over this period.

The beers with the most powerful brands are just as varied as beer drinkers’ tastes. They differ greatly in style and originate from five different countries. They also have a range of founding dates, extending from 1759 to 1995. This illustrates that an established brand does not necessarily mean a strong brand.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend Rankings to identify the most popular beers, which quantifies brand strength among consumers. We included dollar sales, change in dollar sales from one year ago and case sales. We also included the average price per case over the latest 52-week period in the United States provided by SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm. The group looked at sales at supermarkets, drugstores, gas/convenience stores and mass market retailers, but excluding Walmart (NYSE: WMT) club stores, and liquor stores.

These are America’s favorite beers.

10. Corona Extra
> Dollar sales: $995,750,100
> Change in dollar sales from a year ago: +8.81%
> Case sales: 33,653,220
> Avg. price per case: $29.59

Corona has been Mexico’s best-selling beer since 1935. It was not until 1979 that the beer was imported to the U.S. Corona sells for a higher average price per case than many domestic beers, at $29.59, yet it is still very popular among American consumers. In the 52 weeks ended April 15, 2012, Corona Extra was among the best-selling beers by quantity, and it ranked even higher for dollar sales. According to Grupo Modelo, Corona is “undoubtedly” the best-selling Mexican beer in the world.

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9. Heineken
> Dollar sales: $592,768,800
> Change in dollar sales from a year ago: +4.86%
> Case sales: 19,681,860
> Avg. price per case: $30.12

Heineken has been brewed in Amsterdam since 1873. It was introduced in the United States in 1933, after Prohibition was lifted. Today, the beer is one of the country’s most popular, and its brand is one of the strongest. Heineken is one of the more expensive brands in the U.S., selling for an average of more than $30 per case. This price has helped the company make almost $600 million in the 52 weeks ending April 15.

8. Beck’s
> Dollar sales: $73,672,420
> Change in dollar sales from a year ago: +2.67%
> Case sales: 2,656,154
> Avg. price per case: $27.74

Beck’s sales are significantly lower than fellow European brew Heineken’s. Beck’s dollar sales were about one-eighth that of Heineken in the 52 weeks ending April 15, 2012. Its case sales were slightly more than one-eighth the number of cases Heineken sold over that same period. Despite these relatively low sales, the Beck’s brand is stronger than Heineken’s in the eyes of Americans.

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7. Modelo Especial
> Dollar sales: $355,914,800
> Change in dollar sales from a year ago: +22.63%
> Case sales: 13,948,820
> Avg. price per case: $25.52

Modelo Especial was not available in the U.S. until 1990, more than 20 years after the introduction of fellow Mexican beer Corona. No doubt, Corona Extra’s sales of $1 billion in the 52 weeks ending April 15th are much higher than Modelo Especial’s $356 million, but Modelo is quickly growing in popularity. Already it has a stronger brand, and compared to one year ago, sales have increased more than 22% — among the largest increases for any brand.

6. Samuel Adams Lager
> Dollar sales: $240,251,900
> Change in dollar sales from a year ago: +6.02%
> Case sales: 7,710,278
> Avg. price per case: $31.16

Boston Beer Company (NYSE: SAM), the maker of Samuel Adams, is tied with Yuengling as the largest American-owned brewer, ranked by barrels shipped in 2011. The company is considered an American craft brewer — defined as relatively small, independent and traditional — by the Brewers Association. Samuel Adams Lager is fairly expensive, with an average price tag of more than $31 per case. Compared to other popular beers, Samuel Adams ranks significantly higher in dollar sales compared to case sales.

5. Guinness Stout
> Dollar sales: $93,183,030
> Change in dollar sales from a year ago: +16.46%
> Case sales: 2,617,600
> Avg. price per case: $35.60

Guinness, which started in 1759 in Dublin, is the oldest brewer on this list. Yet it is still gaining popularity in the U.S. Over the past year, the beer’s maker, Diageo (NYSE: DEO), sold 2.6 million cases of Guinness Stout in the country, an increase of more than 16% from the year prior. The beer is also the most expensive among popular brands, costing an average $35.60 per case.

Also Read: American Companies With the Most Customers

4. Newcastle Brown Ale
> Dollar sales: $84,891,020
> Change in dollar sales from a year ago: +6.48%
> Case sales: 2,673,008
> Avg. price per case: $31.76

Newcastle Brown Ale, which is brewed by Heineken, has rather low sales in the U.S. compared to other popular brands. Yet, it is experiencing significant growth. Newcastle sold 2.67 million cases in the U.S. in the 52 weeks ended April 15, an increase of approximately 7% from the year before. Newcastle is also one of the most expensive popular beer brands, costing an average of $31.76 per case.

3. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
> Dollar sales: $146,656,300
> Change in dollar sales from a year ago: +15.71%
> Case sales: 4,513,378
> Avg. price per case: $32.36

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., based in California, has only been around since 1979. The company’s most popular beer — Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — already has among the strongest brands in the U.S. Dollar sales for the beer increased nearly 16% in the 52 weeks ended April 15, compared to the year before. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is also the second-most expensive brew among popular brands, costing $32.36 per case.

Also Read: The Eight Beers Americans No Longer Drink

2. Blue Moon
> Dollar sales: $225,747,800
> Change in dollar sales from a year ago: +26.46%
> Case sales: 7,370,705
> Avg. price per case: $30.63

Launched in 1995, Blue Moon is the youngest brand on this list. Dollar sales of the beer, which is produced by MillerCoors, had the second-largest increase in the 52 weeks ended April 15, compared to the prior year, increasing by approximately 26.5%. Blue Moon is also one of the more expensive popular beers, with each case costing an average of $30.63.

1. Yuengling Traditional Lager
> Dollar sales: $206,266,200
> Change in dollar sales from a year ago: +36.55%
> Case sales: 9,465,673
> Avg. price per case: $21.79

Yuengling is America’s oldest brewing company in the U.S., having been founded in 1829. It also has the strongest brand. This brand’s strength appears to be helping sales immensely. Yuengling is tied with the Boston Beer Company for being the largest American-owned brewer by measure of barrels shipped in 2011. On top of this, the company is becoming even more popular still. For the 52 weeks that ended April 15, 2012, Yuengling had the largest increase in dollar sales in the U.S. from the year before, growing by more than 36%. Yuengling, however, is significantly less expensive than the other brands on this list.

Charles B. Stockdale

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