The US led the way as the world's most valuable beer market in 2002 with sales of around £46.8 billion, according to a new report from industry analyst Datamonitor.

And the UK's image of a nation of beer drinkers is only partly borne out by the report, which showed that although the country spent some £19.7bn on beer - the equivalent of £341 each, it paled by comparison to the US figure and indeed Japan which bought £39.6 billion worth of beer in 2002.

Meanwhile the Czech Republic, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Belgium all came out ahead of Britain in terms of consumption per capita. Those in the UK over the age of 15 drank an average of 228 pints each in 2002, compared with 326 pints in the Czech Republic and 300 for the Irish.

But in terms of value per capita only the Irish and Norwegians spent more. Whereas the British spent £341 each on beer, the Irish and Norwegians spent £814 and £417 respectively.

Norway was also the most expensive place in the world to buy beer, with a pint costing £3.52, just ahead of Malaysia at £3.29, and Japan at £2.84.

In terms of stout drinking, unsurprisingly the Irish topped the list with 134 pints drunk per head of population last year. The UK finished second, but well off the leader, consuming only seven pints each in 2002, averaged across the whole population.