Special Report

States Drinking the Most Beer

6. Wisconsin
> Annual per capita consumption:
35.7 gallons of beer
> Pct. change beer consumption 2011-2015: -1.4%
> Adults reporting binge drinking: 23.3% (2nd highest)
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 37.8% (7th highest)

More beer purchased per capita does not always accompany a high prevalence of excessive drinking. In Wisconsin, however, it does. The state consumes 35.7 gallons of beer annually per resident 21 years and older, tied for the fifth highest consumption rate. Meanwhile, 23.3% of adults report excessive drinking, the second highest share in the country. Beer is heavily tied to Wisconsin’s culture and history. Beer giants MillerCoors and Pabst have had brewery locations in the city for over a century and a half. Given the high consumption rate, perhaps it is not surprising that beer is taxed at a rate of 6 cents per gallon, the third lowest beer tax of any state in the country.

5. Vermont
> Annual per capita consumption:
35.7 gallons of beer
> Pct. change beer consumption 2011-2015: 2.9%
> Adults reporting binge drinking: 20.6% (10th highest)
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 36.1% (9th highest)

Beer consumption in the vast majority of states declined over the last five years, and nationally, consumption fell by nearly 4%. In Vermont, however, people are drinking more than before. Beer consumption per capita rose by 2.9% over the last five years, a larger increase than in any other state. Specialty and craft beers have become increasingly popular lately, and the Green Mountain State has more craft breweries per capita than any state in the country. As is the case in most states with high beer consumption per capita, the share of alcohol-related traffic fatalities in Vermont is relatively high. More than 36% of driving deaths in the state are related to alcohol consumption, the 10th highest rate in the country.

4. South Dakota
> Annual per capita consumption:
38.7 gallons of beer
> Pct. change beer consumption 2011-2015: 2.7%
> Adults reporting binge drinking: 18.3% (21st highest)
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 35.3% (14th highest)

While per capita beer consumption declined nationally by 3.9%, South Dakotans drink 2.7% more than they did five years ago, at 38.7 gallons of beer, purchased per drinking-age resident. Beer sales in the state are relatively unrestricted, which may contribute to South Dakota’s relatively high consumption. Unlike the majority of states, liquor is sold alongside beer and wine in grocery stores. Spirits of all kinds can be purchased on any day of the week. Shepard explained that South Dakota, like several other Midwest states, has traditionally had a heavy beer drinking culture, which may explain the state’s beer drinking rate.

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