Bars| Beer| Insights

The 7 Most Popular Beers in California Bars

By Stephen Ngo

Related: The Most Popular Beer & Liquor Brands of 2018

With a population larger than Canada’s and a GDP larger than Mexico’s, California is more than powerful enough to be its own country. After all, its economy is 50% larger than Texas’.

And since we’ve already looked at the most popular beer brands in the Lone Star State and for the United States as a whole, we’re long overdue for an examination of Californians’ favorite brews at the bar. And luckily for us, we’ve got users across the state: from the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe, to Fresno, Ventura, LA, Orange County, Palm Springs, and San Diego.

Here are the seven most popular beer brands among California BevSpot bars.

The following material aggregates alcoholic beverage distributor order data from dozens of California BevSpot bars and restaurants from January through August 2017. All figures represent percentages of orders in dollar terms.

New Call-to-action

The results are as follows: Modelo (2.4% of all California beer orders), Lost Coast (2.5%), Coors (2.9%), Corona (3.1%), Bud Light (3.5%), Stella Artois (5.1%), and Ballast Point (5.6%).

For a more detailed breakdown of each brand's performance, read on below.

Bevspot Trends California Beers

7. Modelo

Modelo’s billions of dollars in annual U.S. sales make it the second most popular imported beer brand domestically. But among BevSpot bars, it places behind Corona, Stella Artois, and even Guinness.

Though it represents less than 1.5% of distributor beer orders nationally, the Mexican-produced brand is disproportionately popular in California: among the state’s BevSpot users, it represents almost 2.5% of beer orders.

Bevspot Trends California Beers

6. Lost Coast

This Eureka, CA-based brewer is known mostly regionally. Still, that regional popularity is enough to push its California order share beyond that of many mass-market brands.

Bevspot Trends California Beers
So, which Lost Coast products sell the best among BevSpot bars?

While the Indica IPA and 8 Ball Stout have the most ratings among Lost Coast beers on BeerAdvocate, the Tangerine Wheat is actually the most prolific in our data, accounting for over 40% of on-premise orders for the brand. The runners-up in popularity were the Great White witbier and the Indica IPA.

5. Coors

Though this midwestern favorite is slightly less popular in California (2.9% of beer orders) than in the rest of the country (3.5% of beer orders), still manages to make the top five brands in the Golden State.

The same can’t be said of its sister brand Miller, which represented less than 1% of California beer orders (despite being ranked second nationally).

Bevspot Trends California Beers

4. Corona

You might expect the most popular Mexican beer among BevSpot bars nationally to command the California market. This appears not to be the case; in fact, the brand is over one percentage point less popular in California (3.1%) than in the rest of the country (4.3%).

Still, Corona parent Constellation Brands can breathe a sigh of relief. Corona’s sister brands Modelo and Pacifico (ranked 12th at 1.8% of California beer orders) are both more than twice as popular in the state as outside of it.

Bevspot Trends California Beers

3. Bud Light

At almost 7.5% of BevSpot bar beer orders nationally, Bud Light is the top-selling beer brand both in the on-premise and off-premise spaces. But among California BevSpot bars, it’s disproportionately unpopular at only 3.5% of beer orders—less than half of its national market share.

In the state, the national market leader is outranked by two brands: one well-established, the other a relative newcomer.

Bevspot Trends California Beers

2. Stella Artois

At over 5% of BevSpot bar orders in California, the Belgian beer brand is almost twice as popular in the state as outside of it.

Though it displaces Bud Light regionally, don’t take this as a sign of competition between the two brands: both are owned by multinational brewer AB InBev.

Bevspot Trends California Beers

1. Ballast Point

Founded in 1996, the San Diego-based brewer would barely be old enough to drink if it were human. Yet its availability has become widespread, placing it among the top fifteen beer brands among BevSpot bars nationally.

Bevspot Trends California Beers

At over 5.5% of beer orders in its home state, Ballast Point is five times as popular there as it is in the rest of the country. And though Ballast Point has dozens of beers listed on its website, just two products jointly account for over 70% of orders for the brand from BevSpot bars: Sculpin IPA (~40%) and Grapefruit Sculpin IPA (~30%).

The Landscape of Californian Beer

With an estimated population of over 39 million, California is over 40% larger than the second most-populous state ( Texas, whose data we’ve examined before). In a region of this sheer size, to have any kind of significant market share is to have the distribution network and brand recognition of a medium or large-sized brand. Contrast this with what it means to be a market leader in New York City, Boston, or Chicago (where local brewers like Brooklyn, Harpoon, and Revolution often hold their own with mass market giants).

In this environment, it’s a commendable feat for California craft brewers like Lost Coast, Alpine, or Firestone (all within the top 20 California brands but with almost 0% of the on-premise beer market outside of the state) to achieve even regional popularity without the resources of a multinational company. How long it’ll be before they’re acquired is anyone’s guess.

Start a BevSpot Free Trial

No comments yet... Be the first?

the BevSpot Blog ... and more

Trends, advice and big stories for the restaurant and bar industry.

Create a free BevSpot Community account to get blog updates delivered straight to your inbox and receive unlimited access to all of our guides, data, and free tools.

Already have a BevSpot account?
Log in to get access.