Today’s beer industry is dominated by a handful of large macro-brand corporations such as the "big four" brewers: Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev, London-listed SABMiller, Heineken of Holland, and Denmark's Carlsberg. Between them, they control half of the global beer market.
Still, mass-market beer sales are falling in Western Europe and the United States. Only "craft beers" from independent breweries are growing, by 11 percent in the United States, with the number of new brewers globally up by 16 percent in 2011 over the previous year.
This is backed up by the consumer experience of the beers. The RateBeer Best 2012 annual beer competition was again the largest in the world — more than 140,000 beers from over 12,000 brewers worldwide were tallied. The contest was open to all breweries, including the big players, but only craft beers made the top 50.
Unlike other beer contests, the competition largely involves tasting commercial samples, rather than special batches prepared for festivals. A beer's score is based on its percentile ranking among all beers. Every beer also has a "style" score.
The success of these microbreweries has led to larger breweries lining up to swallow them. In March 2011, Anheuser-Busch bought Goose Island, one of the largest American microbrewers. Craft brewers account for only about 5 percent of the U.S. market, but that may be changing. Click ahead to experience the world’s most highly rated beers.
— Bianca Schlotterbeck, CNBC.com
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