With its rich history and universal appeal, beer has cemented its place as one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, with global breweries churning out billions of litres each year to satisfy the ever-present demand. Up to the mid-nineteenth century, beer was made largely on a domestic scale but today, the contenders for the biggest brewery in the world are unrecognisable to what went before.
Producing beer on this scale is a complex endeavour, requiring a deft blend of science, art, and corporate acumen. Indeed, the largest beer brewery in the world is a business steeped in tradition, history, and culture, entrusted with the task of recreating the magic of beer while constantly innovating to cater to the evolving tastes of the discerning consumer.
For the purposes of this article, we are rating the largest breweries in the world by the number of hectolitres produced annually. A hectolitre is the equivalent to 100 litres.
Join us as we embark on an exploration to find the biggest beer factory in the world.
Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan | Volume: 57.4 million hectolitres
Asahi is a corporate conglomerate with interests in alcohol, spirits, soft drinks and food. With close to a 40% market share, it’s the largest brewer in Japan and one of the largest breweries in the world. Founded in 1889, Asahi owns some of the world’s most famous beer brands including Grolsch, Peroni, Pilsner Urquell and Tyskie. In 2021 the company produced just under 5.8 billion litres of beer.
Tsingtao Brewery Co. Ltd
Headquarters: Qingdao, China | Volume: 76 million hectolitres
China’s second largest brewery isn’t the biggest beer factory in the world but does rank among the oldest and most famous. It was founded in 1903 by a group of expatriate English and German settlers in China as the Germania-Brauerei Tsingtao Co. Ltd – Tsingtao is an old western spelling of Qingdao. It’s believed the company has a 3% share of the global beer market and produces around 7.6 billion litres of beer every year.
Molson Coors Brewing Company
Headquarters: Colorado, USA/Quebec, Canada | Volume: 84 million hectolitres
Molson Coors is the result of a 2005 merger between two of the oldest and largest beer breweries in the world, Molson (founded by English-born entrepreneur John Molson in 1786) and Coors (founded by German-American brewer Adolph Coors in 1873). The company produced around 8.4 billion litres of beer in 2021. Alongside Coors and Molson, brands in their stable include Carling, Miller Lite and Staropramen.
Headquarters: Copenhagen, Denmark | Volume: 119.6 million hectolitres
With a yearly production of almost 12 billion litres of beer, Carlsberg is one of the largest breweries in the world. It was founded in 1847 by Danish industrialist JC Jacobsen. He named the flagship brand after his son, Carl. Along with Carlsberg, whose famous advertising slogan ‘Probably the best lager in the world’ is one of the world’s best-known marketing lines, the company owns Holsten, Kronenbourg, Tuborg and Tetley’s.
Headquarters: Amsterdam, The Netherlands | Volume: 231.2 million hectolitres
The second-largest beer brewery in the world was founded by Gerard Adriaan Heineken in 1864 as a small family business. Today the company produces over 23 billion litres of beer every year. Shortly after Prohibition was lifted in the US in 1933, Heineken became one of the first beers to begin expanding into the US market. Since then it has become one of the world’s most popular beer brands. The company’s stable of beers include Heineken, Sol, Amstel, Red Stripe and Tiger, with the former believed to be the world’s single most valuable beer brand.
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV
Headquarters: Leuven, Belgium | Volume: 581.7 million hectolitres
AB InBev is the biggest brewery in the world. The roots of its brewing operations date back to the thirteenth century with the Belgian ‘abbey beers’. Today, it’s thought that AB InBev has approximately 25% share of the global beer market. Their most popular beer brands include Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois and Beck’s. In breweries across the world, they produce over 58 billion litres of beer every year.
A Modern Expansion of an Age-Old Industry
From the centuries-old abbey beers of Belgium to the innovative brewing techniques in Japan, the largest breweries in the world play a critical role in the production and distribution of this hugely popular product. These titans of brewing not only produce staggering volumes of beer, but they also continuously adapt to the evolving tastes and preferences of a global consumer base.
Blending tradition with innovation, they continue to balance mass production with the artistry of brewing. And while the scale of operations is indeed beyond anything that came before, these breweries have arguably managed to maintain their unique identities amidst the numbers. Each brewery, with its distinct flavours, stories, and practices, contributes to the wide variety of options that make up the global beer industry.