Who’s the Country’s Biggest Brewer?

Written by Kim Peterson for money.msn.com

A new beer maker has surged ahead to become the largest in America — and it probably isn’t the one you think.

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of the No. 1 beer Bud Light? Nope. That’s a subsidiary ofAnheuser-Busch InBev (BUD +1.88%), which is based in Belgium.

How about MillerCoors, which makes No. 2 beer Coors Light? Nope. MillerCoors is a joint venture of London’s SABMiller (SBMRY -0.88%) and Molson Coors (TAP -0.73%), which operates out of Montreal and Denver.

The biggest U.S. brewer is now D.G. Yuengling and Son, based in Pottsville, Pa., the Allentown Morning Call reports. Yuengling saw shipments soar 16.9% last year to 2.5 million barrels. As a result, it barely squeaked into first place, surpassing Sam Adams maker Boston Beer (SAM -1.00%), which rose 8% to 2.4 million barrels.

“It just floors me that so much of our beer industry is owned by foreign concerns,” Dick Yuengling, the brewery’s fifth-generation owner, told the Morning Call. “We were not in any race to be the largest domestically owned brewer, but it’s a tremendous honor for us.”

And Yuengling’s sales will likely increase for 2012 because it just started selling beer in its 14th state, Ohio, the Morning Call reported.

Yuengling’s growth is even more remarkable because the industry has been in a prolonged slide. Total beer shipments fell by 1.4% last year, Advertising Age reported.

The beer industry saw another shakeup last year: Coors Light surpassed Budweiser to become the No. 2 beer. It was the first time in decades that Anheuser-Busch hasn’t controlled the top two beers in the country.

It’s interesting, and a little sad, that Yuengling can be the top U.S. brewer but have only 1.2% of the market. The company ranks No. 8 in overall market share. Even Pabst Brewing Co. is bigger, but Pabst doesn’t actually brew its own beer, so it doesn’t count as a brewer. And North American Breweries, which sells Genessee and Magic Hat, gets much of its volume from Canada’s Labatt beer, Advertising Age reported.

Americans seem to be just fine with drinking foreign-owned beer. When InBev took over Anheuser-Busch four years ago, some observers thought U.S. beer drinkers would revolt, Advertising Age reported. That hasn’t happened.

“The average consumer has a short memory,” one industry expert told the magazine.