Skip to main content

This is the drink that replaced Bud Light as the most popular beer in the U.S.

Bud Light and America have long been close. But there's a new most popular beer in the states.

Negra Modelo
Modelo

For the first time in about a generation, the most popular beer in the states is not American. That’s right, Bud Light has lost its place on the throne, replaced by the likes of Modelo Especial of Mexico. What can we deduce from this change in popular beers?

The margins are thin, and Budweiser may still win out in terms of total year sales, but this is still a significant storyline. A few things are unfolding here, which speak to larger themes that exist within the beverage industry and at large.

South of the border trends and diversity

blue agave
Adobe Stock / Adobe

Part of Modelo’s success is owed to the ongoing popularity of Mexican exports, from agave spirits like tequila and mezcal to up-and-coming players like the Baja wine scene. Generally, there’s more interest in Mexican drinks culture than ever. Couple that with an increasingly diverse America made up of close to 20% Hispanics, and it’s easy to see why a big south-of-the-border player like Modelo would be doing so well. This does not appear to be a moment but, instead, more of a larger trend that will only increase.

With summer setting in, the two beer brands will no doubt continue to do well. They each specialize in light, refreshing beers built for being buried in ice in the cooler. As craft beer continues to evolve, with new styles and ingredient combinations, it’ll be interesting to see how big beer—if at all—evolves as well.

Bigger brands struggle with politics

budweiser beer can bar
Budweiser

If you’ve even just skimmed the news, you’ve likely heard about the blowback Bud Light endured recently. The brand, somewhat valiantly, at least in theory, teamed up with a transgender influenced for a recent ad campaign. Like so many brands, it took advantage of the money that could be made by using important and symbolic imagery like the rainbow, especially with Pride month looming. Apparently, that was too much for the brand and a good chunk of America to handle, as top executives have been placed on leave and sales have slumped some since. That’s the risk that biggest brands have to deal with—a huge audience surely made up of at least a sizable portion that likely disagrees with your stance or suggestion, should you make one.

The economy is not really to blame

beer aisle store
Good Life Studio/Getty Images

The placement and price of the two brands is pretty comparable, making the economics of it a mostly non-issue. The beers cost about the same by volume, with Modelo often a bit more expensive via major retailers and online outlets like Drizly. Both companies are dealing with the same supply chain shortages and customers being more frugal at the grocery store.

Some have attributed Modelo’s ascension to its relatively new low-carb offering. Drinkers are still pursuing the style, looking for healthier options and even non-alcoholic ones. Whatever the combination of the above factors, there’s a new most popular beer in America in town.

All in all, it’s not terrible news as Bud Light has always lacked flavor and character, and Modelo, while a far cry from a great pilsner beer, does taste a bit better. It’s not going to make any best beer lists anytime soon, but it’s a little refreshing to see a new wearer of the crown (though we do wish this change only had to do with the taste of the beer).

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
There’s a scientific reason why cold beer tastes better
Science says cold beer just tastes better
Beer in ice

Imagine this scenario: It’s a scorching, humid, sunny day and you just finished two hours of lawn mowing and weed-whacking. While you probably should have a tall glass of ice water to stave off dehydration, what you want is a frosty, cold beer instead.

You crack open that beer and it tastes like the most delicious, satisfying, thirst-quenching beverage you’ve ever had. Now for the real question. Why? Does drinking it ice cold make it taste better? In the simplest terms, yes.
Does cold beer taste better?

Read more
These popular pale ales are great for all occasions year-round
Classic Grocery Store Pale Ales
Beer glass

While the IPA seems to get most of the press when it comes to hoppy, floral, bitter, refreshing beers, you wouldn’t want to sleep on its close cousin, the pale ale. Especially the thirst-quenching, crisp, always easy-drinking American pale ale.

For those unaware, the pale ale (like many classic beers) can be traced back to Europe (specifically England). While the English pale ale is known for its gentle malt backbone and earthy, herbal, fruity, hoppy aromas and flavors, the American pale ale is known for its citrus, floral, fruit, piney, bitter aromas and flavors. We can thank the folks at California’s Sierra Nevada for that.

Read more
It’s official: These are the best beers in the world
Is your favorite beer one of the world's best beers?
Close-up of beer in a glass

If you missed it, a big beer event just happened. And no, it wasn’t the release of an apricot and yuzu sour ale from your favorite local brewery. No, it was the 2024 World Beer Cup. If you’re a soccer fan, you can understand how important a “World Cup” is. Last Wednesday, the winners of one of the most prestigious beer awards in the world were announced.

The Brewers Association started the event in the 90s, well before the craft beer boom. Beer nerds often call it ‘The Olympics of Beer Competitions’. When it was first held, there were only hundreds of breweries in the US; now, there are over 9,000. Also, remember this is the World Beer Cup, so we can’t forget the countless breweries in other countries.
How is it judged?

Read more