According to a Beer Institute 2015 study, the U.S. beer industry generates $252.6 billion in economic activity each year, about 1.5% of total U.S. gross domestic product. Drinking-age Americans consume on average about 27 gallons of beer annually, or about 288 12-ounce bottles.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the volume of beer sold per drinking-age adult in each state. Adults in nine states consume at least 25% more beer than the average American adult, but no state drinks as much beer as New Hampshire. Based on estimates derived from total sales, adults 21 and over in the Granite State consume an average of 43 gallons of beer annually, equal to roughly 460 12-ounce bottles.
Beer consumption varies between states for different reasons. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St. this past June, Eric Shepard, vice president of Beer Marketer’s Insights, explained that while it is hard to pinpoint a single reason, often “it’s a reflection of culture from state to state.” Shepard singled out states such as North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin as places where beer drinking is simply a part of the culture.
Geography also plays a role in beer consumption rates. “Generally, rural, Western states tend to have larger beer consumption per capita than other parts of the country,” Shepard said. Indeed, a larger share of residents live in rural areas in eight of the nine states drinking the most beer than across the U.S. as a whole. In addition, more than half of the nine states drinking the most beer are located west of the Mississippi River.
High per capita beer consumption does not necessarily mean unhealthy or reckless behavior. In New Hampshire, however, both the excessive drinking rate and the share of impaired driving deaths are slightly higher than the corresponding national figures. Statewide, 18.9% of all adults drink excessively compared to 18% nationwide. Also, 32.9% of driving deaths in the state involve alcohol compared to 31% nationwide.
Not all beer purchased in New Hampshire is necessarily consumed in the state. New Hampshire is one of only four states with no sales tax. As a result, residents of neighboring states — Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont — may travel to New Hampshire to save on their beer purchases, making that state’s beer consumption rate appear higher than it actually is.