Beer is one of the most popular drinks in the United States, and for good reason. According to some polls, beer holds a uniquely high place in American consumption, with an 11.3% share of what people in the U.S. are drinking.
Beer is a famously versatile drink that is perfect for every event where a good time needs to be had, from backyard barbecues to tailgates and everything in between. And as long as you are of legal age, beer is relatively easy to come by!
But not all beers are created equal. In America, some types of beer have proven to be more popular than others. Everyone has their signature drinks of choice, and there are some major similarities in the style, brands, and substances of beer people enjoy.
Without further ado, here are some of the top and most popular beers in America.
Most Popular Styles of Beer
It can be difficult to parse through an overstocked beer fridge to decide what to get for yourself. Beer comes in so many different styles and brands that it’s nearly impossible to remember them all. Therefore, it can be helpful to know what other beer drinkers are enjoying at this very moment.
First things first: what are the most popular styles of beer?
All beer falls into two major categories of classification: ales and lagers.
The main difference between these two major beer styles is in how they are fermented. It’s all in the yeast with these two!
Ales are fermented with top-fermenting yeast at warmer temperatures (between 60˚–70˚F), while lagers, on the other hand, are fermented with bottom-fermenting yeast at colder temperatures (between 35˚–50˚F).
Ales typically ferment and age in a shorter period of time, roughly 3-5 weeks, because of their warmer fermenting temperatures. Alternatively, lagers take longer to completely ferment, around 6 to 8 weeks, because of the colder temperature.
Here are some of the top ales in the United States:
1. India Pale Ales (IPA)
You’ve likely heard of IPAs, considering they are by far the most popular craft beers in America today. The defining ingredient in IPAs is hops—cone-shaped flowers from the Humulus lupulus plant.
Hops are mainly used to balance the sweetness of malt and give different aromas to a brew. Additionally, hops have many other properties that aid in brewing, such as providing stability, head reduction, spoilage prevention, and acting as a natural clarifier.
All hops contain alpha and beta acids that contribute to the stability and bitterness of the beer, and they also impart aromas and flavors like citrus, spice, pine, and berries. An IPA, particularly an American IPA, is known for that hoppy bitterness from the brewing process.
Some of the most popular brands of India Pale Ales are as follows:
- Susan: Hill Farmstead Brewery
- Nelson: Alpine Beer Company
- Axe Man: Surly Brewing Company
- Navesink IPA: Ross Brewing Company
2. New England-style IPAs
A New England IPA is a style that features an intense hop aroma and flavor. It’s heavily dry-hopped until it gains a hazy and fuller body, smoother flavor, and less perceived bitterness than the average IPAs.
The hazy New England IPA is a modern beer style that came about relatively recently. This style will usually have less hop bitterness than your average IPA and a character notable for its juicy tropical hop aromas and flavors.
These traits are achieved using various techniques such as different yeast strains, the timing of adding hops, and specialized water.
Some of the most popular New England-Style IPAs are here:
- Heady Topper: The Alchemist
- King Julius: Tree House Brewing Company
- Abner: Hill Farmstead Brewery
- Crazy Stupid Dove: Mayflower Brewing Company
3. Imperial/Double IPAs
A double or imperial IPA (which are the same thing) is a beefed-up IPA.
The Brewer's Association defines an Imperial IPA as “an IPA with color that is straw to medium amber, 6.0%-8.4% alcohol, with hop aromas and flavors that are very high, but not aggressively bitter.”
Imperial IPAs have a reputation for being darker and more bitter than the average IPA but are incredibly popular nonetheless.
Some of the most popular Imperial/Double IPAs are here:
- Pliny the Younger: Russian River Brewing Company
- Double Sunshine: Lawson’s Finest Liquids
- Dinner: Maine Brewing Company
- Citra: Kern River Brewing Company
- Fear and Patience: Mayflower Brewing Company
4. Pale Ales
India Pale Ales are a hoppier version of the pale ale. That’s the main distinguishing difference between the two, but it is more complicated than it sounds.
The use of specialized American hops, primarily Cascade, gives these beers citrus and piney aromas. Pale ales are usually medium-bodied and have a subtle bitter finish. Their color often ranges from dark gold to amber and copper.
Pale ale is a popular beer style known for being hop-forward with a malty flavor, a golden color, and moderate strength. Brewed with pale malt and ale yeast, these types of beer find themselves in a happy medium between dark stouts and light lagers.
They are full of flavor but light and approachable.
Some of the most popular pale ales in America are as follows:
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
- Zombie Dust: 3 Floyds Brewing Company
- Fresh Hop Pale Ale: Great Divide
- Tangerine Creamsicle Pale Ale: Great South Bay Brewery
Stouts are a dark, top-fermented beer with many variations, including dry, oatmeal, milk, and imperial.
Stouts are made with roasted barley, often bringing dark chocolate, caramel, or toffee flavor. Some can even be aged in Bourbon for deeper and more booze-filled taste.
The strongest stouts typically range from 7% or 8% alcohol by volume (ABV) and are called "stout porters.” Therefore, stouts are often deeply associated with porters, and the term stout has become synonymous with dark beer instead of strong beer.
Other stouts include imperial (higher in alcohol and flavor), milk stouts (brewed with lactose, not to be confused with cream ales), and pastry stouts (which use adjunct ingredients like cakes).
The most famous and beloved stout (and one of the most popular beers on the market) is Guinness. This dry Irish stout is known for its nitro pour with cascading carbonation and a fuller, softer taste.
But you want to know about the top American beers, so here are some of the most popular American stouts you can find if Guinness isn’t red, white, and blue enough for you:
- Double Shot: Tree House Brewing Company
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout: Rapp Brewing Company
- Urban Anomaly Stout: Crowns and Hops Brewing Company
Porters were developed in England in the 1700s. They were well-hopped and dark in appearance, thanks to the use of brown malt. Porters have historically been popular and quickly became one of the first beer styles to be brewed across the world.
Porters and stouts are very similar, and their development is connected. Different breweries use the terms nearly interchangeably to describe dark beers, and both stouts and porters have a lot in common.
Porters and stouts share dark malts that provide their classic black color. Before the development of modern-day kilning, many beers were on the darker side because grains were frequently roasted over open flames.
Here are some of the most popular porters in America:
- Everett Porter: Hill Farmstead Brewery
- Last Snow: Funky Buddha Brewery
- Edmund Fitzgerald: Great Lakes Brewing Company
- Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter: Moody Tongue Brewing Company
Sour beer is the oldest type of beer around. Basically, all beer used to be this way before pasteurization and sterilization were familiar concepts.
Sours have gained a significant following in recent years because they appeal beyond beer’s normal crowd. Because of their flavor and style, they tend to attract fans of wine and other alcoholic beverages.
Sours today are very tart and are made using bacteria such as lactobacillus during the brewing process. Lactobacillus is a bacteria that turns sugars into lactic acid while brewing and is the same acid that makes yogurt taste slightly sour.
There are two major types of sours made today: kettle sours and Berliner Weisse beers, which are often blended with fruits to add sweetness.
Here are the most popular American sours you can buy:
- Fallen Maple: 18th Street Brewing
- Berry Rocket: Celestial Beerworks
- Batten Kill: The Drowned Lands Brewery
8. Wheat Beers
Wheat-based beers are brewed with a generous amount of grain, thus adding body and flavor. Allagash White is one of the most famous examples of this type of beer. The best American wheat ales are nuanced, tasty, and refreshing, while American ones utilize brighter flavors and spices that provide lightly sweet cereal flavors.
Wheat beer is typically top-fermented and brewed with lots of wheat, compared to the amount of malted barley used. Gose is a subgenre of this kind of beer, which uses salt to add a savory character.
Some of the most popular types of wheat beer in America are as follows:
- Double Sess: Finback
- Stargazer White: Highland Brewing Company
- White Rascal: Avery Brewing Company
- Allagash White: Allagash Brewing Company
Lager is the most popular beer style in the world by a pretty large margin. They use lager yeast, which is one of the main things that differentiates them from ales.
Most of the most popular lagers come from large beer producers, which account for roughly 87% of the beer marketplace in the U.S and are mass-produced to every store in the country.
There is a notable craft lager community that attempts to compete with Big Lager, but regardless of what type of lager you choose, they all have a similar approach.
Here are some of the top lagers in the United States:
- Bud Light and Budweiser: Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Samuel Adams: Boston Beer Company
- Coors Light: Molson Coors Beverage Company
- Miller Lite: Molson Coors Beverage Company
- Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR): Pabst Brewing Company
- Narragansett Lager: Narragansett Brewing
Pilsners are a type of pale lager with traditionally Bavarian origins, utilizing the brewing process of lagers to become known as a refreshing, palate-cleansing, thirst-quenching beer.
American pilsners are close to the original German style, thanks mostly to German immigrants who came to the country. The main thing that makes American pilsners distinct is the use of corn or rice as an adjunct in the grist (making upwards of 25%) and having medium-low to medium sweet malt flavor.
Here are a few of the most popular pilsners in America:
- Amarillo Pilsner: Persephone
- Johnny Rawton Pils: Dogfish Head Craft Brew Ales
- Keeper: Mikkeller American Pils
- Stella Artois: Anheuser-Busch InBev
- R&H Pilsner: RH Brewing
This kind of beer, meaning “pale in color,” is known for being a bit rounder and more full-bodied than light lager or all-malt pilsners. Helles typically have a light golden color as well.
Helles lager beers offer a sweeter beer balanced out by spicier hops and some slight bitterness. The malt character of the beer is soft, which complements light dishes such as salad. Helles beers usually have an alcoholic range of 4.8-5.6% ABV and are a favorite of drinkers everywhere.
As far as American Helles goes, it is distinguished by adding American hops and putting the beer into aluminum cans.
Here are some of the most popular Helles in the U.S.
- Marie: Hill Farmstead Brewery
- Alpenflo: Sixpoint Brewery
- Wanderer: Tree House Brewing Company
- The Cottage: Fox Farm Brewery
- Smiles Returning to the Faces: Singlecut Beersmiths
11. Cream Ale
A famous and beloved style of pale lager, cream ales are known for their lighter color and well-attenuated brew. Despite the name, cream ales don’t contain any lactose whatsoever!
Cream ales are uniquely American lager-style beers that developed following Prohibition, a period in U.S history where alcohol was banned with an amendment to the constitution.
These kinds of beer are generally light and refreshing. While cream ales are top-fermented, they usually undergo a period of cold-conditioning (or lagering) after primary fermentation is complete, which is unique.
Here are the most popular American Cream Ales:
- Genesee Cream Ale: Genesee Brewing Company
- Castle Cream Ale: Castle Danger Brewery
- Vanilla Affogato: Sycamore Brewing
- Jetty: Great South Bay Brewery
12. Mexican Lager
Mexican lagers are brewed with flaked corn (or maize) and are often served with lime or flavored with it. Most of the most popular Mexican-style lagers are imported from Mexico, but some American breweries have taken up the mantle themselves.
Each aims for a Tecate-style light body, delicate hop character, and maximum ability to refresh the person drinking it.
Here are some of the most popular Mexican-style lagers in America:
- Saint Archer Mexican Lager: California Brewing Company
- Lone Tree Mexican Lager: Lone Tree Brewing Company
- Mexican Lager with Lime: Great Lakes Brewing Company
- Corona Light and Corona Extra: Cervecería Modelo
- Zea Mays: Alewife Brewing Company
Try Top American Beers With TapRm
We’ve laid out as many options as possible regarding the best and most popular beers in America at the moment. We covered many different styles, brands, and approaches to one of this country's favorite beverages.
We‘ve only scratched the surface of what beer has to offer. Breweries across the country have gotten creative with their approaches to beer and have created thousands of variations.
If you’d like to learn even more and browse a wider selection of beers on the market, check us out at TapRM to find other brands of beer to drive your taste buds wild. Let’s raise a toast to finding a new favorite beer style!