Beer| Insights

Boston vs. America: 10 Top Beer Choices in 2016

By Stephen Ngo

Yearly Reports (U.S.): 2015 // 2016 // 2017 // 2018

Regional Reports:
New York City, Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Florida, and Texas

We at BevSpot aren’t afraid to embrace our Boston roots. And why wouldn’t we?

This city is the home of nationally-renowned brewers like Harpoon and Samuel Adams, which began fermenting the craft beer revolution in the ‘80s (with many more to come). It’s also been ranked the best place to celebrate St. Patrick’s day in the United States—a big deal, considering that the day is the fourth most popular drinking day of the year. So it’s no surprise that we love a good drink.

According to Forbes, Boston is also America’s smartest city. With over 50 different colleges in the city itself, there’s no shortage of smahts. It’s no wonder the contemporary craft beer movement started here—we’ve got so many beer nerds! (Even Sam Adams founder Jim Koch is a Harvard grad.)

We know anecdotally that Bostonians drink beer differently from the rest of the country. But, being the geeks we are, we wanted to see the actual numbers. We ranked beer brands by the differences between their local and their national popularities among BevSpot bars. Read on to see our results.

Boston's Most-Ordered Beer and Liquor: Download Now

The following material uses additional order data from our 2016 report on BevSpot users in the greater Boston area. All figures represent percentages of beer orders in dollar terms.

Here are the top ten beer brands in the Boston area, ranked by the divergence between their local and national share of orders among BevSpot bars. Read on for a breakdown of each brand's performance.

Orders of the top 10 beers in Boston

#10: Lagunitas

2.9% of Boston Beer Orders; 1.4% in Rest of U.S.

Orders of Lagunitas in Boston

Just because New England has birthed so many craft beers, that doesn’t mean Bostonians only stick to local brands. Founded in 1993, this California craft brewer quickly expanded its distribution network, and now produces one of the highest-selling IPAs in the United States. While 1.4% of BevSpot beer orders nationally are for this brand, its market share is double that in Boston. While one might have expected competition from New England IPAs to hurt its sales, Lagunitas still outperforms.

#9: Narragansett

1.7% of Boston Beer Orders; 0.1% in Rest of U.S.

Orders of Narragansett in Boston

Unlike many of the New England brands here, this Rhode Island brewer has been around for a while (specifically, since 1890). Once the dominant beer brand in New England, Narragansett is now 14th among Boston-area BevSpot customers. But, because it never really expanded outside of the region, its brews remain unique to our neck of the woods.

#8: Corona

5.1% of Boston Beer Orders; 3.5% in Rest of U.S.

Orders of Corona in Boston

Corona is one of only two mass-market domestic beer brands to make this list. With 3.5% of beer orders outside of the Boston area, Corona is the third most-popular beer among BevSpot’s non-Boston beer customers. But at 5.1% of beer orders, its Boston market share is 1.6% higher than it is in the rest of the country. 1.6% is pretty significant: that’s our estimate of the Boston beer market share for Budweiser. For that reason, Bostonians certainly drink more Corona than the rest of America.

#7: Allagash

2.7% of Boston Beer Orders; 1.0% in Rest of U.S.

Orders of Allagash in Boston

While New England has become synonymous with IPAs, the region has other tricks up its sleeve as well. Take this Portland, Maine-based brewer, which specializes in Belgian-style beers and is best-known for its Belgian witbier-inspired Allagash White. Because it stands out from its IPA-reliant neighbors, Allagash has become a well-recognized name among the beer lovers of Boston.

#6: Guinness

3.5% of Boston Beer Orders; 1.7% in Rest of U.S.

Orders of Guinness in Boston

Boston’s been ranked the best city in the U.S. to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s home to the biggest urban concentration of Irish-Americans as well. So is it surprising that the premier Irish beer has double the share of Boston beer orders that it does in the rest of the country? Guinness accounts for 1.8% more of beer orders in dollar terms in Boston bars than in the rest of the country. Maybe that’s St. Paddy’s Day alone.

#5: Notch

2.0% of Boston Beer Orders; 0.0% in Rest of U.S.

Orders of Notch in Boston

While most of the local brewers on this list see healthy demand from both Boston and and the rest of the New England, almost all of the orders for Notch that we processed were in the Boston metro area. This makes sense: initially founded in Boston and now operating in Salem, MA, the brand can afford to concentrate exclusively on its local market. So, while a 2% market share only makes it the 12th most popular beer brand among Boston BevSpot users, its roots give it a special status here.

#4: Jack’s Abby

2.9% of Boston Beer Orders; 0.1% in Rest of U.S.

Orders of Jacks Abby in Boston

Like Notch, almost all of the orders we observed for this beer brand were from Boston BevSpot users. Jack’s Abby is also a Massachusetts native, and thus also well-positioned to take advantage of the local market for high-quality beer. The difference is their market shares: at 2.9% of Boston metro area orders, the Framingham-based brewer has a significant leg up on Notch, which has 2.0%.

#3: Samuel Adams

4.0% of Boston Beer Orders; 1.2% in Rest of U.S.

Orders of Sam Adams in Boston

This is the beer that most non-residents associate with Boston, and understandably so. One of the pioneers of the craft beer revolution that has bucked the once-poor international reputation of American beer, Samuel Adams has grown to become one of the highest-selling beer brands in the United States. While that domestic market share has meant that some Bostonians no longer think of it as “local”, its 4.0% local market share means that Sam's hometown is still its stronghold.

#2: Bud Light

8.7% of Boston Beer Orders; 5.6% in Rest of U.S.

Orders of Bud Light in Boston

Hear us out. Whether you’re looking at the United States as a whole or just at Boston, Bud Light is the most popular beer brand. But, while Bud Light has an already-dominant 5.6% share of beer orders among non-Boston BevSpot users, it accounts for 8.7% of Boston-area BevSpot beer orders. That 3.1% of additional market share is huge. Beer-dollar-for-beer-dollar, Boston BevSpot bars spend more on Bud Light than their counterparts in the rest of the country. As a result, it lands at second in these rankings.

#1: Harpoon

7.0% of Boston Beer Orders; 0.4% in Rest of U.S.

Orders of Harpoon in Boston

Sam Adams aside, there’s another craft beer brand that could lay claim to the Boston area: Harpoon. Like other local brands like Notch and Jack’s Abby, BevSpot beer orders for Harpoon are almost exclusively from Boston metro area bars. But, with facilities both in Boston and in Vermont, the brewer seems to have production capacity that its local counterparts don’t. With 7.0% of Boston-area beer orders, Harpoon is the second most-popular beer brand locally, and the most “uniquely Boston” beer.

For more about Boston, click below for our 2016 look into Boston's Most-Ordered Beer and Liquor Brands

Looking for more data and trends? Check out this report on the top-selling spirits nationally. Plus, get first notice on new trends by subscribing to the BevSpot Blog.

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