Americans are drinking less beer than they used to, and when they do imbibe, they're more and more often choosing craft brews. Yet, financially, big American brands like Budweiser are still basically doing fine. One big reason is the graph below, posted by the U.S. Census Bureau this week, which shows U.S. beer imports (the blue line, right axis) and exports (the green bars, left axis). Two big points: First, we still spend more than eight times as much money buying brews from the rest of the world than the world spends buying beer from us. Second, after years of (rightfully) mocking American macrobrews as tasteless fizz, the world is coming around to them. Our exports grew 78 percent, to about $448 million in 2012, the last year with data.*
This is something useful to keep in mind every time you read an article about, say, Budweiser's decline among young U.S. drinkers. Thanks to a growing presence in growing markets like China and Brazil, Anheuser-Busch InBev has said that 44 percent of its sales were overseas in 2011, up from 28 percent in 2008. Presumably, that percentage has only increased as the brand has continued growing abroad. These days, the future of the most famous beer in America isn't really in America.
*Correction, Feb. 12, 2015: This post originally misstated that exports grew to $448 billion in 2012.