To paraphrase famed scholar Homer Simpson, beer is the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems. That’s probably why almost every country on Earth has a particular beer its denizens prefer. But each of those market dominating beers holds a secret…
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Now and then we like to dig back into the TopTenz.net archives and re-share some of our best content as TopTenz Classics. Please enjoy this classic list from 2015.)
10. China’s Snow Beer: Popular Despite its Taste
Snow Beer is the single most popular beer on Earth. If you’ve never heard of it, that’s not surprising considering the beer is pretty much only sold in China, where it accounts for a dominating 84% of all sales despite the fact its parent company spends almost nothing on advertising.
In other words, Snow Beer has been able to secure the coveted title of “most popular beer on Earth” while only being available for sale in a single huge market with little to no advertising. The beer is so seldom shipped abroad that it’s considered foreign in Hong Kong and is notoriously difficult to get a hold of, even in specialty beer shops. But you’re not missing out on anything special, because according to this CNN article quizzing Chinese residents it’s bitter, flat and unappealing. Normally we’d make a quip about the power of advertising, but since Snow doesn’t advertise we’re a little lost for words.
9. America’s Bud Light: Cynically Appealing to the Buzzfeed Generation
In recent years, Bud Light has replaced its more calorie heavy, beer gut causing cousin as the favored beer of the United States, thanks in part to a massive push on behalf of the company that owns the brand, Anheuser-Busch. They’re regarded as industry trendsetters for being one of the few companies to successfully tap the burgeoning millennials market by re-structuring its marketing to better appeal to young, hip, twenty-something consumers who are more concerned with tweeting, partying and taking selfies than anything those lame-ass adults care about.
While this has undoubtedly led to some innovative campaigns like the much reported on “up for whatever” campaign, which saw a thousand random young adults being invited to a town called Whatever for a weekend long party, you have to keep in mind these were all masterminded by stuffy guys in suits cynically predicting that millenials would fall for whatever marketing they shoved down their throats as long as it was on Buzzfeed or Tinder. That’s not a joke, those were both platforms they used.
What’s worse is that Bud Light spokesmen have claimed they can reach over 50% of all 21-27 year olds using these methods. Yes, Bud Light is so cynical about the predictability and manipulability of young adults that they think they can make 50% of us pay attention to one of their ads with a post on Buzzfeed. Which is kind of insulting, but also depressingly realistic if the post they’re talking about happens to have GIFs.
8. Mexico’s Corona: Limes and Wagers
The most commonly consumed beer in Mexico and Fast and Furious movies is Corona. Unusually for a successful domestic beer, Corona enjoys a good deal of success in several foreign markets, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom. Abroad it’s almost universally consumed with a wedge of lime, something that confuses Mexican people to no end.
Despite it being considered customary to garnish Corona with lime, there’s no agreed upon consensus for why this is the case, since the beer has never been consumed that way in its native Mexico. A popular theory is that the custom was started by a New York barman for a bet in 1981, but this has never been confirmed because of course it hasn’t. Corona themselves have been tight-lipped about discussing what, if anything, the lime is supposed to do. Either they have a secret deal with a Mexican lime farmer, or they don’t check their emails.
7. Singapore’s Tiger: Time for a Tiger
Along with being the most popular beer in both Singapore and Malaysia, Tiger is proof that the west really needs to step up its game when it comes to naming alcoholic beverages. When drinks like this and Cobra are on the market, we honestly don’t know how anyone can justify drinking anything less metal.
Since the ’30s Tiger has used the slogan “Time for a Tiger” in a great deal of its advertising, because even soulless ad agency workers can see that’s a slogan people will never get tired of hearing. One person who agreed with this sentiment was Anthony Burgress, who used the slogan as the title for a 1956 novel.
Burgress would later reveal that he chose Tiger’s slogan as the title purely because he wanted a free clock from Tiger. When Burgress asked the company if they’d send him a clock for giving them a bunch of free advertising, they rather reasonably asked if they could see a copy of the novel first. Offended at the idea of a company wanting to see if their intellectual property was being used in a way that didn’t make them look bad, Burgress went back and hastily added a line saying that Tiger Beer sucked and Carlsberg was better. The change prompted Carlsberg to send him a complimentary crate of beer.
Even though Burgress made fun of their product and generally acted like a petulant child in all correspondence with them, when Burgress visited Singapore in the ’70s Tiger tried to bury the hatchet by offering him free beer for the duration of his entire visit. Burgress heroically turned the offer down, because sometimes being a colossal jackass requires a bit of sacrifice.
6. Russia’s Baltika: Better than Coke
As we’ve talked about before, in 1860 almost half of the Russian government’s income came from taxes placed on vodka. Russians love them some vodka, and given how much of it they drink you could be forgiven for thinking that beer isn’t a thing over there. Well, until 2013, it kind of wasn’t.
While beer is certainly sold in Russia, with the Baltika brand being the most popular overall, it wasn’t legally considered alcohol until 2013 due to a quirk in Russian law that dictated that any alcoholic drink that had a strength of less than 10% was considered a foodstuff and thus could be sold as a soft drink. Along with speaking volumes about how hardcore Russians are when it comes to drinking, it also means that prior to 2013 you can technically say that the best-selling soft drink in Russia was a beer.
5. Jamaica’s Red Stripe: Jamaican in Name, American in Spirit
According to the marketing guys behind Red Stripe, it’s a traditional Jamaican style lager with a rich history. According to Google, Red Stripe was first brewed in Illinois for a century before it was bought out by some British guys during prohibition who then marketed it to soldiers stationed in Jamaica. After proving popular in Jamaica, Red Stripe was then marketed back to the States as an exotic foreign brew from the mysterious sun bleached sands of a tropical island. Thus proving that, with good enough marketing, you can convince people of anything.
Oddly, when Red Stripe was initially pitched to the States, it failed to catch on because they sold it in green bottles instead of the distinctive brown ones they used in Jamaica, marking the only time in history Americans complained that something being brought in from a foreign country wasn’t dark enough. A more hilarious twist came in 1989, when all shipments of Red Stripe were cancelled when it was discovered that cannabis was being smuggled in with each shipment. We honestly wouldn’t be surprised if someone at Red Stripe did that on purpose just to really sell Americans on the idea that Red Stripe was from Jamaica.
4. Brazil’s Skol: Hobo Murdering Super Beer
Although Skol is most popular in Brazil, we’d like to talk about its ill-fated foray into the British market, mostly because we get to use the phrase “murder beer.” High alcohol content beers are by no means a new thing, but Skol’s Super Beer (it’s actually called that) was on another level entirely. Unlike other high alcohol beers which are sold as premium prices, Super Beer sold for just a pound per can despite having roughly the same alcoholic content as an entire bottle of wine.
Unsurprisingly, the beer proved to be incredibly popular with the homeless to the point that it’s still a running joke in the UK to call it “tramp juice.” The government was less amused, as they noticed a concerning rise in the number homeless people drinking themselves to death after the beer and others like it became widely available. Before legislation was introduced to make access to the beer more difficult with a tariff, it was estimated that perfectly legal super-strength beers that people could buy for less than a pint of milk were killing more homeless people than crack cocaine or heroin. Perhaps even more worrying is that up until 2013, the same murder beer that was killing homeless people in the UK could have been sold like a can of Coke in Russia.
3. Japan’s Asahi: The Poo Building
Since homeless people drinking themselves to death is kind of depressing, let’s lighten the mood by talking about Asahi, Japan’s beer of choice. More specifically, we’d like to tell you about the big building Asahi constructed that looks like it’s topped with enormous golden feces.
Built in 1989 and dubbed “one of Tokyo’s most recognizable modern structures,” the Asahi Beer Hall is supposed to resemble a frothing beer glass. It houses a beer hall where customers can sample its many products. Unfortunately, residents of Tokyo had other ideas and instead decided that the golden monument atop the building more closely resembles feces or a sperm than a frothing beer. Which wouldn’t be that bad if the building wasn’t right next to Asahi’s headquarters. That means it’s now common for people in Tokyo to refer to the headquarters of the best selling beer in their entire country as “the poo building.” But hey, it hasn’t hurt sales.
2. North Korea’s Taedonggang: Better than South Korea
Taedonggang, which is pronounced however the hell you feel like it, is North Korea’s leading brand of beer and, according to the few outsiders who’ve had the honor of sampling it, isn’t half bad. North Korea’s crippled, outdated infrastructure has actually made it easier for Taedonggang breweries to make top notch beer, because none of the other factories in North Korea produce enough pollution to affect its otherwise pristine water supply.
As you’d expect from a country where you’re not allowed to have the same name as the guy who runs it, the only reason Taedonggang beer exists is because Kim Jong-il wanted to prove a point. Apparently the late leader got into an argument with a South Korean official at a 2000 summit in Pyongyang about the quality of North Korean beer. Incensed at the idea of South Koreans enjoying better beer than his people, he bought an entire brewery from the United Kingdom and had it shipped piece by piece to North Korea, then demanded that it begin producing better beer than South Korea. Kim Jong-il was so keen to promote this new patriotic beer that he even granted special permission for an advertisement to be run on North Korean TV, something that’s only ever been done a handful of times.
And it worked! Not only is Taedonggang the most popular beer in North Korea, the few experts who’ve tried it have admitted that it’s way better than any South Korean beer. We think we’d still prefer to live in the South, though.
1. Ireland’s Guinness: Nazis and Toucans
Guinness had genuine plans in place to advertise in Nazi Germany during the 1936 Olympics. You know, the ones held in Germany that Hitler himself attended. While nothing ever came of it, primarily because a London based subsidiary advised the Irish wing against pandering to Nazis, they did end up reusing one of the designs when they eventually launched in the United States a few years later.
Just to be clear, Guinness took a poster that they had originally planned to hang in bars around Nazi Germany, changed the flag in the background, and then used it announce their glorious arrival in the United States. Keep that in mind the next time St Patrick’s Day rolls around and Walmart tries to convince you to buy three crates of Guinness to celebrate.