Domestically brewed craft beers are surging in popularity in the United States. The amount of beer produced by American microbreweries has grown from fewer than 950,000 barrels in 2009, to nearly 4 million barrels in 2015. Despite the recent spike in interest in craft beer, beer brewing is nothing new in United States.
Many American beers, including some of the most popular, trace their roots back well over a century. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed common beer brands to identify the 15 oldest American beers. In order to be considered, a beer brand had to have been first brewed in the United States and still be available today.
Yuengling, first brewed in Pottsville, Pennsylvania in 1829 is the oldest beer still widely available today, while San Francisco’s Anchor Steam Beer, circa 1896, rounds out the list of 15 oldest beers.
Every beer brand on this list was introduced in the 19th century, and one way or another, survived the prohibition era. In the years between the 18th Amendment’s ratification in 1919 and its repeal with the 21st Amendment in 1933, the production, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited in the United States.
Some beer brands on this list, like Narragansett, were able to remain open through legal loopholes. Others, such as Lone Star, were forced to discontinue operations, not to return until after prohibition’s repeal.
While every beer on this list is relatively old in the context of American brewing, they are relatively new on a global scale. For example, Stella Artois, a popular Belgian beer, can trace its roots back to 1366. Today, Stella Artois is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, the same company that owns Budweiser — the eighth oldest beer in the United States.
As time went by, consolidation in the beer industry also affected the oldest brands. Though they started out as independent labels, many of the beers on this list are owned by one of only a handful of companies. Of the 15 oldest American beers, six are owned by Pabst Brewing Company, three by Molson Coors Brewing Company, and two by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV. The oldest beer on this list, Yuengling, remains independent.
The beers on this list range considerably in popularity. Only three of America’s oldest beer brands — Budweiser, Coors, and Yuengling — shipped more than a million barrels last year. Other beers are more regional. National Bohemian, for example, is not widely sold outside of the Mid-Atlantic states and only shipped about 65,000 barrels in 2016.
To identify the oldest beer brands in America, 24/7 wall st. reviewed the U.S.’s 28 top selling beers by shipment volume. In addition to these mainstream brands, we consulted the portfolios of the most well known U.S. brewing companies. The year a beer brand was introduced came from corporate websites. Shipment volumes were provided by industry observer Beer Marketer’s Insights. To ensure the beers on this list had wide recognition, we only considered brands with at least 500 ratings on beer review site, BeerAdvocate.com.