Beer in bars – three words that sit neatly together. But in the world’s best bars, beer drinking can seem incongruous in the face of the bartender’s bag of cocktail tricks.Perhaps it will always have a peripheral image in top bars, but beer is profitable.
Many bartenders tell us that branded lager has a higher margin than many cocktails, though not craft beer, which comes at a price.
Some insist craft is what they like, but not necessarily what customers want. Of course these trends change from market to market.
In the US and Australia craft brews are much more important to the drinks programme – perhaps because their punters are better educated in beer.
From our poll, we can see Heineken is the best selling beer, sitting squarely at the top of our Best Selling list. It has done for four straight years. But even if it is ahead of the rest, it is only the best seller in 8% of bars polled.
The true trend is fragmentation. Of the 100 bars polled few have the same best selling beer. So though our Top 10 has some big names among its number, it’s hard to conclude that any – bar, perhaps, Heineken – are safely ensconced. Indeed, each of the brands from Asahi down are top sellers in just two polled bars each.
It’s worth noting that Czech beers Budvar, which makes its first entry in the list this year at number two, and Pilsner Urquell are both making headway.
With an open playing field, the Top Trending chart could provide hope to other brands.
Brooklyn is named as the hot brand in 8% of bars, with Heineken – clearly a consumer favourite – most requested in 6% of our polled establishments.
Scaling down the list, Brewdog’s debut is a sign that its irreverently marketed hoppy brews are making their mark.
Available in the off-trade and through its own Brewdog bars, punk beers are starting to go mainstream.
Innis & Gunn is also expanding internationally and, with its barrel-aged USP, seems a good fit for cocktail bars. It, Brewdog and Camden mean three beers are flying the British flag. A turnaround for British beer you couldn’t have foreseen 10 years ago.
HOW WE DID IT
We spoke to the World’s 50 Best Bars for this poll but in order to have a broader set of results we widened the net to include responses from a total of 100 of the top bars in the world - as voted for by our World's 50 Best Bars Academy.
We asked bar owners and head bartenders from these 100 top bars to name the Best Selling and Top Trending brands behind their bars. For more information about our methodology see here.
Day by day we will take you through the overall Best Selling and Top Trending spirits, and into the categories - from tequila, gin,vodka, rum, liqueurs, Scotch, World Whiskies, Brandy, aperitifs and digestifs, champagne, beer, water and tonic water to the best brands for cocktails.