States That Drink the Most Beer


By Samuel Weigley, Michael Sauter and Alexander E.M. Hess, 247Wall

After falling for three straight years, U.S. beer consumption finally leveled off last year. In 2012, the country consumed 28.2 gallons of beer for every adult of legal age.

Annual beer consumption varies widely on a state-by-state basis, according to the latest data released by the Beer Institute. In Utah, retailers barely sold 20 gallons per every person 21 years and older. Several states, however, went through more than double that, including North Dakota, where 45.8 gallons of beer were consumed per adult.  Based on data published by the Beer Institute, these are the states that drink the most beer.

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 Consumption represents the amount shipped to retailers in the state, but not necessarily the amount state residents drank. In many places on this list, for example, people be may traveling from out of state to purchase beer because of lower taxes or because it’s laws governing sales are less restrictive.

In many of the states with the highest beer sales per capita, taxes on beer are very low. This includes states such as Montana, which taxed just 14 cents per gallon.

In other states, taxes were not necessarily among the lowest in the country, but were lower than neighboring states. In North Dakota, where the second most alcohol is consumed per adult, the state only taxes wholesalers and manufacturers. It also has no sales tax. This may cause residents in neighboring states to make runs across the border to buy beer.

The states with the highest rates of alcohol consumption also make it easier for consumers to purchase beer with relaxed restrictions. None of the 10 states with the highest beer consumption outlaw sales of beer at grocery stores or convenience stores. While many other states prohibit Sunday beer sales, all of the top-consuming states allow it.

While cheaper or more available beer appears to be a factor in how much beer is purchased in these states, it is also clear that drinking is more popular. Of the 10 states, eight have among the highest rates in the country of adults reporting either heavy drinking or binge drinking, or both. In the highest beer consumption state, North Dakota, 23.8% of adults reported binge drinking at least once within the past month. Only 18.3% of adults said the same nationally.

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Based on figures compiled by the Beer Institute, these are the 10 states with the highest consumption per adult. This represents the amount of beer shipped to distributors in gallons, per resident 21 or older. Additional figures on the number of breweries in each state and the direct and indirect contributions of the beer industry to states’ economies are based on the Beer Institute’s estimates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided figures about the percentage of state adults who are heavy drinkers, defined as averaging more than one drink a day for women or two for men, and binge drinkers, who consume numerous drinks in one single occasion.

These are the states that drink the most beer:

5. Wisconsin

  • Per capita consumption: 36.2 gallons
  • Total consumption: 4.9 million barrels (12th highest)
  • Pct. binge drinkers: 24.3% (the highest)
  • Number of breweries: 132 (7th highest)

More than 24% of Wisconsin’s adult population were considered binge drinkers as of 2011, a higher percentage than any other state. Wisconsin had 132 breweries in the state in 2012, more than all but six other states. This was up from 112 in 2010. The state levied a tax of just 6 cents per gallon of beer, lower than any other state except for Wyoming. According to the Beer Institute, the beer industry contributed $8.6 billion of economic output in 2012, comprising 3.3% of the state’s GDP. This contribution, relative to the size of the state economy, was higher than all other states except for Missouri and Colorado.

4. South Dakota

  • Per capita consumption: 38.9 gallons
  • Total consumption: 743,000 barrels (6th lowest)
  • Pct. binge drinkers: 22.1% (6th highest)
  • Number of breweries: 10 (9th lowest)

South Dakota had a relatively low number of heavy drinkers, but it had a high number of binge drinkers. As of 2011, 22.1% of the state’s adults surveyed by the CDC reported engaging in binge drinking. South Dakota is one of the least populous states in the country and only had 10 breweries as of 2012. That number is a big jump, considering it had just six breweries in 2010. The state’s tax of 27 cents per gallon of beer as of June 2012 was lower than those of Minnesota, North Dakota and Nebraska, three of its main bordering states. However, to the west, Montana’s and Wyoming’s taxes were even lower.

3. Montana

  • Per capita consumption: 41.0 gallons
  • Total consumption: 979,000 barrels (8th lowest)
  • Pct. binge drinkers: 20.8% (9th highest)
  • Number of breweries: 31 (25th lowest)

Montana was just one of three states in 2012 where adult residents consumed more than 40 gallons of beer per capita. An estimated 20.8% of the state’s adults were considered binge drinkers in 2011, the ninth-highest proportion of all states. In addition, 7.6% of the state’s adults were considered heavy drinkers, also the ninth highest in the country. The beer industry in Montana contributed about 1.6% to the state’s GDP, among the highest third of all states. The beer industry directly supported more than 5,000 jobs in 2012, with 4,000 of them in retail.

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2. New Hampshire

  • Per capita consumption: 43.9 gallons
  • Total consumption: 1.4 million barrels (14th lowest)
  • Pct. binge drinkers: 18.7% (21st highest)
  • Number of breweries: 21 (20th highest)

New Hampshire residents over 21 years of age drank an average of 43.9 gallons of beer per person in 2012, or nearly 16 gallons more than the average American in that time. However, New Hampshire drinkers are fairly responsible, with just 18.7% of adults classified as binge drinkers by the CDC in 2011, roughly in line with the 18.3% of adults nationwide. While there is a tax on manufacturers and wholesalers, Granite State residents do not pay a direct tax on bottles of beer. This is a fact that has led people from Massachusetts and Maine to cross state lines to purchase beer. The New Hampshire House of Representatives rejected a plan to hike taxes on wholesalers and brewers by a resounding vote of 308 to 35, and Governor Maggie Hassan promised to veto the bill, according to the Nashua Telegraph.

1. North Dakota

  • Per capita consumption: 45.8 gallons
  • Total consumption: 753,000 barrels (7th lowest)
  • Pct. binge drinkers: 23.8% (2nd highest)
  • Number of breweries: 4 (2nd lowest)

No state consumed more beer per resident of legal drinking age in 2012 than North Dakota. This is despite the fact that the beer industry is not very large in the state. Just four breweries were operating within the state lines as of 2012, fewer than any other state except for Mississippi. The beer industry comprised just 1.1% of North Dakota’s GDP in 2012, among the bottom third of all states. The percentage of binge drinkers in the state was 23.8% as of 2011, higher than any other state except for Wisconsin.

To see the remaining five states on the top 10 list of  ‘States That Drink the Most Beer,’ click here.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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