Asian beer manufacturers produced 103 billion pints of beer in 2009, marking an increase of 5.5 per cent compared to the previous year. At the same time, European beer companies experienced a production drop of 5.1 per cent to 97 billion pints during the same period, according to a study by the research department of Kirin Holdings Co, the Japanese beer giant.
Defying cultural stereotypes of beer-swilling Europeans, it is the first time that Asia has assumed the top spot in the world's beer producing since annual records began in 1974 by the Kirin Institute of Food and Lifestyle.
This appears to be mainly a function of demographics, though. Asia is growing far faster than Europe, so overall consumption is increasing because the number of mouths is increasing. Even in metropolitan cities like Tokyo, Singapore, and Seoul, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of a trend toward connoisseurship. I was reminded of a post I saw a few months back by Fal Allen. He started a brewery in Singapore called Archipelago five years back or so. The beers he designed incorporated local ingredients, simultaneously pushing the beer envelope and also an attempt to create something indigenous. But in April he reported that the entire line was being replaced with traditional beers:
For the most part the Asian spiced beers are a thing of the past (we still have the Samui as our wheat beer - made with Kalamasi lime and Pandan leaves). But, it was felt that the spice beers were a bit too niche for the market (actually a niche within the niche of craft beers), and maybe that's right. Maybe we were a bit ahead of the curve with those beers, and so we have redesigned.
Until Asians develop a more robust culture of beer, I'll take this as an interesting--if not particularly relevant--statistical quirk.