Special Report

States Drinking the Most Beer

Nationwide, beer consumption per capita has declined by roughly 4% since 2011. Still, beer is big business in the United States.The beer industry generates $252.6 billion in economic output each year, or about 1.5% of total gross domestic product, according to a study conducted on behalf of the Beer Institute, an organization representing the interests of beer makers and distributors nationwide.

While drinking-age Americans consume an average of about 27 gallons of beer annually, beer drinking is far more common in certain parts of the country. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the volume of beer sold per drinking-age adult in each state to determine the nine states where residents are drinking the most beer. Beer Marketer’s Insights, a company that publishes industry information and news, provided the data. New Hampshire leads the nation in beer consumption with 43 gallons of beer purchased per resident 21 and older.

Beer consumption varies from state to state for a variety of reasons. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., 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.

Click here to see the states drinking the most beer. 

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, eight of the nine states drinking the most beer are more rural than the U.S. as a whole. In addition, more than half of the states on the list are situated west of the Mississippi River.

Despite its prevalence in certain areas, per capita beer consumption in the United States has declined in recent years. “There has been a switch to spirits, and to a lesser extent, wine,” Shepard explained. Still, per capita beer consumption in nine states has actually increased in the last five years, including in several of the states drinking the most beer. In Vermont, the state with the fifth highest per capita beer consumption, beer consumption has gone up by 2.9% since 2011, the largest increase in the country.

High per capita beer consumption does not necessarily mean unhealthy or reckless behavior. However, with the exception of Nevada, all of the states where residents are drinking the most beer, also report higher than average excessive drinking rates. Similarly, all nine states have higher than average alcohol-related car accidents death rates. In North Dakota, 25% of all adults drink excessively and about 47% of driving deaths involve alcohol, each the highest such rate in the country and far higher than the corresponding 18% and 31% national rates. North Dakotans of legal age drink an average of 40 gallons of beer annually, more than in every other state except New Hampshire.

In order to determine the nine states drinking the most beer, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed total gallons of beer distributed in each state per resident 21 years and older in 2015 data provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights. We also reviewed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on excessive drinking and alcohol-related death figures and rates. Beer excise tax rates as well as sales tax rates came from the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy research organization. The share of the population living in rural localities came came from the U.S. Census Bureau, and alcohol impaired driving deaths came from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

These are the states drinking the most beer.

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