No beverage stays fizzy forever. Bud Light has been America’s best-selling beer since 2001, but its run at the top finally seems to be ending. The troubles started in April, when the brand unveiled a sponsorship deal with the transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, sparking a massive anti-trans backlash. Kid Rock filmed himself blasting cases of Bud Light with a rifle. A boycott swiftly spread. By June, the Mexican lager Modelo Especial had claimed the top spot in retail sales, according to the market-research firm NielsenIQ. By one measure, at least, Bud Light was officially no longer America’s most popular beer.
The boycott’s success was stunning. Bud Light had been so popular, for so long, that its sudden decline seemed unthinkable. The truth, however, is that its dominance was never as secure as it appeared, and the boycott merely accelerated an existing trend. America no longer shares a united taste for beer. There are more than 9,500 craft breweries in the country turning out flavorful IPAs and fruited sour ales—the antithesis of light lager—and beer faces ever-stiffer competition from cocktails, wine, spirits, and seltzers. Grabbing a light lager is hardly today’s drinking default. Even when it is, no law of nature requires Americans to prefer Bud Light over similarly bland competitors.