Detailed Findings and Methodology:
Across the country, per capita beer consumption is down 4.5% from five years ago. South Dakota is the only state on this list where beer consumption increased since 2011. The typical adult in South Dakota drank 38.6 gallons of beer in 2016, the third most of any state and up from 37.8 gallons in 2011.
Beer consumption is more common in states with large rural populations. Eight of the nine states with the highest beer consumption per capita are more rural — a larger share of residents live in rural areas than the 19.3% U.S. average. Maine and Vermont, the two most rural states in the country, rank eighth and sixth on this list, respectively.
One of the biggest determinants of consumption is taxes. The federal government levies a 58 cent per gallon beer tax — on top of which, each state levies its own tax. Through both state and federal taxes, beer consumption accounts for some $63 billion in tax revenue annually.
Across all states, the average beer excise tax is 35 cents a gallon. Of the nine states on this list, seven levy a lower tax per gallon than the average among all states. New Hampshire, the state with the highest per capita beer consumption rate, taxes beer at only 30 cents a gallon and is one of only a handful states without a sales tax. Partially as a result, residents of neighboring Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine — all states that levy sales taxes — likely account for some of the beer sales in New Hampshire.
Higher beer consumption may be taking a toll on residents’ health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies excessive drinking as five or more drinks on one occasion for men and four or more for women or 15 or more drinks a week for men and eight or more for women. Excessive drinking is never healthy and is linked to poor mental health and an increased risk of certain cancers. While high per capita beer consumption does not necessarily mean adults are drinking to excess, seven of the nine states on this list have a higher excessive drinking rate than the 18% nationwide rate.
One of the most immediate risks associated with excessive drinking is fatal motor vehicle accidents. Nationwide, 30% of all driving deaths involve alcohol. In each of the nine states consuming the most beer, the alcohol-related driving death rate is higher than the national rate. In North Dakota, the state with the fourth highest beer consumption rate, 46.7% of driving deaths are alcohol related, the largest share of any state.
To identify the states drinking the most beer, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed beer shipments in each state per resident 21 years and older in 2016 with data provided by Beer Institute and the U.S. Census Bureau. We also reviewed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on excessive drinking rates and alcohol-related death figures. 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 from the U.S. Census Bureau, and alcohol impaired driving deaths came from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.