10 Fastest-Growing Drunk Nations

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Beer drinkers in the U.S. may be cutting back, but their counterparts in other countries are buying the next few rounds.

Americans drank 19.97 gallons of beer per capita last year, according to Euromonitor International. That's down 7% from 2006 and has dragged Anheuser-Busch InBev ( BUD) and MolsonCoors ( TAP) sales in the U.S. down with it.

The global beer market's shifting a bit, however, and markets in the former Soviet republics, Asia and even the Middle East are developing increased tolerance for big quantities of brew. Euromonitor International has been looking into global beer drinking trends and told us where beer has seen a huge jump in popularity. In the country with the fastest-growing beer market in the world, it's even making big brewers reconsider their definition of beer. Euromonitor shared its data with us and pointed out the 10 nations where there's a longer line at the tap than ever:

10. Belarus
Increase in beer consumption from 2010-11: 5.8% 

Former Soviet republics are big beer fans to begin with, and Belarus is no exception. While it can't keep pace with Lithuania and Estonia, which rank among the world's Top 10 beer-drinking nations, it's starting to build its tolerance a bit. The giant brewers staked out this market long ago; Carlsberg owns its Alivariya, Desyatka and Brovar labels and Heineken produces Belarus' Bobrov and Rechtiskoe brands. The biggest force behind Belarus' beer habit, though, is Belarus itself. The state-owned Krinitsa brewery accounts for more than 35% of the nation's brewing market, while state-owned Brestkoe and Stavka also keep Belarus awash in suds. 

9. Kazakhstan
Increase in beer consumption from 2010-11: 6.1% 

Sacha Baron Cohen conveniently left the beer references out of Borat; perhaps Kazakhstan brewing is somewhat devoid of Kazakh brewers. Three-quarters of its beer is brewed here, but largely at breweries such as Derbes and Karagandinskoye, which are owned by Turkish brewer Efes and Danish-owned Carlsberg, respectively. Still, the Shymkentskoye German-style lager brewed in Shymkent is a huge local favorite and available at most local pubs.

 

8. Azerbaijan
Increase in beer consumption from 2010-11: 6.7% 

Azerbaijan's ties to the former Soviet Union and Turkey give it a taste for beer much greater than its selection would suggest. Much of its beer is produced by Russian-based Baltika in the Azerbaijan city of Baku and comes in the form of the light lager Xirdalan. While Baltika cranks up the alcohol volume as high as 7.7% for its premium offerings, much of Azerbaijan's beer is slow-sipping, sessionable fare similar to Turkey's Efes. The Baki-Praqua brewery produces one of the nation's few standouts in its Novxani Pilsner Zlaty. It's a bit maltier than its Czech namesakes, but a tasty choice in a growing beer market.

 

7. Georgia
Increase in beer consumption from 2010-11: 6.9% 

Yet another former Soviet republic bitten by the Turkish beer bug, Georgia's beer market is dominated by Turkish brewer Efes. So how is it? Well, RateBeer readers consider Efes Pilsner a middling light lager at best, while the high-powerd 7.5% ABV Efex Xtra gets only slightly better ratings for its added kick. Then again, this is like asking the average American what he or she thinks of a Bud. There's some greatness in the fringes, but Georgia doesn't mind itself a cheap social drink from time to time.

6. Lithuania
Increase in beer consumption from 2010-11: 7.8% 

That Lithuania is only drinking more beer as the years progress is somewhat frightening. It's already the No. 8 beer-drinking nation in the world and consumes more than a keg and a half of beer per person each year. Much of what it consumes, however, is made in house. The Kalnapilis brewery has been making German-style Helles, Dortmunder and Pilsner since 1902. Svyturys, meanwhile, has been brewing since 1784 and still makes award-winning Dortmunder and Marzen styles.

 

5. Peru
Increase in beer consumption from 2010-11: 8.1% 

With a huge tourist base, cold Andean winters and thriving ski culture, Peru resembles beer-friendly European countries more closely than its geography would suggest. Part of that success comes courtesy of its home-grown Backus and Backus and Johnston brewery, which has an overwhelming monopoly on Peruvian beer with its popular Malta Polar schwarzbier, Pilsen Trujillo and Pilsen Callao brands. At least a portion of that success and growth, though, comes courtesy of Anheuser-Busch InBev, which has made a strong push into Peru with its Brazil-based Brahma brand.

 

4. India
Increase in beer consumption from 2010-11: 10.3% 

When the average U.S. craft beer drinker knocks back an IPA, they're enjoying a version of the original India Pale Ales first brewed by English exporters to survive the trip from Britain to India. There's almost no IPA in India today, but an average population that's getting younger and richer is making India's traditional lagers and high-octane brews hot commodities. United Brewing's Kingfisher lager remains supreme, while its Zingaro and Sandpiper brands are also among India's most popular. SABMiller's brands also make a pretty hefty dent and, along with UB, take up nearly 90% of India's beer market. India's burgeoning craft beer industry isn't to be overlooked, however, as its 15% ABV Australian Max Beer ranks among the best strong lagers in the world. 

3. Nigeria
Increase in beer consumption from 2010-11: 11% 

Beer is booming as quickly as the oil business in Nigeria, and everyone's taking a piece of the action. Heineken produces the nation's popular and pitifully weak Gulder and Star lagers. More importantly, however, it pumps out Legend Extra Stout, which is the brewer's direct competitor to Diageo Nigerian Guinness brewery (which brews with local grain) and SABMiller's Castle Milk Stout. Nigeria loves stout and consumes more of it than either Ireland or the U.S. Oil may be what drives Nigeria's economy, but it's the country's love of that other dark liquid that's given Nigeria nearly half of the world's stout sales

2. Vietnam
Increase in beer consumption from 2010-11: 11.7% 

Vietnam's beer market gets a big boost from Carlsberg and San Miguel of the Philippines, but traditional beers such as 333, Hue, Hanoi and Bia Saigon are only part of Vietnamese beer culture. The small batches of locally produced Bia ho'i or "fresh beer" found in local bars and on tables in Vietnamese streets may not appear on the sales sheets, but they're a great indication of the nation's thirst for beer and how well it responds to crisp, cheap alternatives.

 

1. Iran
Increase in beer consumption from 2010-11: 21.5% 

Iran's beer drinking is through the roof, but the country's a sober as a kid who's been drinking chocolate milk all day. Let's make one thing clear: There's nothing "drunken" about a country where alcohol has been strictly forbidden since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Iran's beer boom comes from non-alcoholic beer brewed by companies like Behnoush, which went non-alcoholic after the revolution and still brews the Holsten brand with help from Carlsberg. Iran's no-octane brews are flavored with standard malt, but shake it up with varieties including lemon, strawberry and pomegranate. It's not beer in the traditional sense, but it's gaining followers faster than the alcohol-based brews in any other country? Is it beer, though? The answer from consumers in Iran is a resounding yes. 

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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