Pub Quiz: What’s the World’s Best-Selling Beer?

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Doug Kanter / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Bottles of Snow Beer are displayed at the China Resources Snow Breweries in Tianjin, China

Heineken? Carlsberg? Budweiser? Wrong, and you’ve probably never heard of it unless you are from China. The answer is Snow Beer.

The Telegraph reports that Chinese Snow Beer, a joint venture between SABMiller and China Resources Enterprise, scored the global number one sales for the past three years. It sold 16.5 billion pints last year alone, twice as much as Bud Light, which had kept first place until 2008.

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Despite the record, China is Snow’s sole market. The brand has been around since 1993 but has rarely sold outside the border, not even in Hong Kong. Although it’s now the biggest beer brand in China, it is not as aggressively advertised as Tsingtao, which most well-known Chinese beer brand.

“[Snow] is the biggest beer in China, ahead of rivals who have been around for 110 years when we have only been going for 15,” Ari Mervis, the head of SABMiller in Asia told the Telegraph. “But it is in a very Chinese part of the market, not in places where foreigners go to.”

When the company first opened, it started with three modest breweries. Less than 20 years later, it owns 80 out of China’s 500 breweries.

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So how does the China’s favorite beer taste? Well, the reviews are a bit disappointing: sources claim Snow’s quality falls short of the delicate European brews. The Telegraph says SABMiller advertises the pale brew as “bright, almost transparent in nature, with a tight pure white foam,” but beer aficionados call it “bland and watery.”

Unlike Westerners drinking in pubs, many Chinese prefer lighter, less-filling beer to pair with heavy and spicy meals. The Telegraph also reports that China’s beer market has been booming with solid 10% growth each year while Western drinkers have been “sobering up” in the bad economy.

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