Washington Ranks at the Bottom of the List in Beer Consumption

The Beer Institute just released some “state-by-state” beer consumption data. According to the Beer Institute, here in Washington we don’t drink very much beer. In fact, only five states drink less beer per capita than Washington. That means we rank 45th in terms of per capita beer consumption. Click here to see the list of Shipments of Malt Beverages and Per Capita Consumption by State 2012 (PDF format).

So, are you saddened to hear that Washington ranks so low in terms of beer consumption? I bet you thought we’d rank much higher. Do not despair! There is some good news in all of this.

You need to understand the source. According to the website, “The Beer Institute represents the interests of the entire beer industry. So not surprisingly, our members include everyone from America’s largest brewers to some of the country’s smallest.”

That may be true, but I think most people in the craft beer industry would reposition that statement and say that the Beer Institute represents the interests of the very largest breweries and wholesalers. Any benefit to the craft beer industry is purely coincidental. I think that most craft beer insiders would agree that the Brewers Association is the organization that best represents the interests of the craft beer industry.

But none of that really matters. I only wanted to be clear about the source of this information. It comes from the Beer Institute and not the Brewers Association.

I just want to point out that however much beer we do or do not drink compared to other states, last year craft beer represented 25 percent of overall beer sales in Washington. This is according to a letter published by Dick Cantwell earlier this year. (Dick knows better than I, and very likely better than you.)

I am not sure how many other states can say that 25 percent of beer sales were craft beer. None, perhaps? Not many, to be sure. Most would be nowhere close. I’m far from certain, having not seen the numbers in a couple years, but most states (even beery states like Colorado) struggle to consume 10 percent craft beer. I haven’t had a chance to do the research and don’t claim to be an authority about those numbers. I admit I’m speaking anecdotally.

So say what you want about our per capita beer consumption. I hang my hat on craft beer consumption and not overall consumption. Sorry we don’t drink more Bud Light and MGD, but we don’t. I’m sure states like North Dakota and Nevada are making up for our shortfall in that regard. (North Dakota ranked number 1 in terms of per capita consumption and Nevada ranked number 6.)

Washington enjoys an obnoxious bounty of riches when it comes to libations. I’m not just talking about our beer. In my opinion, Washington creates some of the best wines in the world. Indisputably, some of the best wines in the USA. We have a burgeoning craft distilling movement. Cider, which is the fastest growing segment of the alcoholic beverage industry nationwide, is gaining momentum in Washington as well.

All of this could help explain why we rank number 45 in terms of per capita beer consumption. California ranked number 44. California also makes good wine. Maybe that’s just a coincidence.

In Washington, life is good. Washingtonians tend to be a happy lot. Compared to most of the nation, unemployment is low, real estate prices high, and the economy is at least stable if not strong. Maybe we don’t have so many reasons to drink or maybe that’s why we choose to focus on drinking the good stuff. I don’t know. I just don’t want people to feel bad because we rank so low in terms of per capita beer consumption. I’m okay with NOT being at the top of that list.

I hang my hat on craft beer consumption, where we excel. In Washington, we drink for quality and not for quantity.

Here is the press release from the Beer Institute.


Beer Sales Could Top $1 Billion Again This July Fourth

Beer Institute Marks Holiday Week by Releasing 2012 State Consumption Ranking

WASHINGTON, DC – If you are reaching into a picnic cooler for an ice cold beer this Independence Day holiday, you are in good company. More than 99 million Americans drink beer responsibly, making beer the top choice over wine and hard liquor for celebrating occasions like the Fourth of July – America’s top beer-selling holiday.

In the two weeks ending on July 7, 2012, beer was the largest selling category of all food and beverage categories in Nielsen measured channels, with sales reaching $1.36 billion. This year, brewers and beer importers hope to see beer again be the top choice for Americans celebrating the occasion.

This week also marks the release of a new analysis of state-by-state beer consumption data from the Beer Institute, the national trade association representing America’s brewers, beer importers and industry suppliers. The annual ranking can be found in its entirety below. The analysis found that the five states that consumed the most beer per capita in 2012 were:

1) North Dakota

2) New Hampshire

3) Montana

4) South Dakota

5) Wisconsin

For the full per capita consumption ranking, please click here.

Overall, beer consumption rose 1.5 percent in the United States in 2012 as the economy began to come back after the recession and above normal winter and spring temperatures helped boost beer sales. This means that, on average, each American over the age of 21 drank a little less than one 12 ounce beer per day in 2012. That equates to about 300 beers per year.

There’s another reason to feel good about drinking a beer in salute to America’s birthday. The U.S. brewing and beer importing business puts more than two million Americans to work, from barley farmers to shopkeepers and truck drivers. And with the taxes levied on all aspects of brewing, importing, trucking and selling beer, American beer drinkers contribute significantly to local, state and federal government — $49 billion in taxes in 2012, according to a recent economic study. In fact, more than 40 percent of the retail cost of beer paid by consumers goes toward taxes, on a national average, making taxes the most expensive ingredient in beer.

 “From hops producers to can and bottle makers in communities across the country, beer is an economic engine that contributes more than $246 billion to the U.S. economy,” said Joe McClain, president of the Beer Institute. “As folks raise a beer this July Fourth in backyards, on front porches and at holiday celebrations, I ask that they salute the millions of Americans who worked to get that beer from grain to glass.”

For more information about the economic impact of beer in the United States, including state and Congressional district data, please visit www.BeerServesAmerica.org.

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  1. OK. Someone’s bound to point this out, so I might as well. This list gets published each year resulting in lots of commentary about the drinking habits of the citizens of various states. The fact is, this chart shows the taxable shipments per capita, not consumption per capita. This is an important distinction because shipments are influenced by a number of factors that have nothing to do with the amount of beer the residents of a given state actually drink. Tourism is one factor, but cross-border sales also play a significant role. As an example, my former home state (New Hampshire) always appears near the top of this list because it is surrounded by states that have higher taxes and bottle deposits. Even Canadians who live across the northern border are seen purchasing Canadian beer in New Hampshire supermarkets and smuggling it back to their home country because it’s cheaper that way! Yet residents of the Granite state always get “credit” for the beer purchased by people from Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and (yes) Canada!

    Don’t worry, Washington. The rest of us don’t think you’re wimps because your per capita beer shipments are low. I’ll bet your per capita wine shipments are higher than lots of other states.

  2. Yes Phil, it isn’t even disguised. The report is called “Shipments of Malt Beverages and Per Capita Consumption by State 2012.”

    Although what you say is all very true, it’s much more fun to get every body all riled up. This started quite a heated conversation on Facebook. Though I admit that it was a rather goofy line of comments, it was fun.

    It’s obvious why the Beer Institute focuses on shipments anyway. Some people drink beer that comes from other states, which is just bizarre. Why would you do that?

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