The Biggest Beer Drinking States

In one’s younger years, beer seems to be the alcoholic beverage of choice. There are many thoughts as to why that is, but two key reasons stand out: It’s cheap, and it’s less offensive to inexperienced taste buds than harder liquors like tequila. (Not that taste stops guys from pounding shots and eventually acquiring a taste for the hard stuff, we’re just pointing the gastro-economic perspective.)

The rising popularity of micro and artisan brews has changed how the drink is viewed in the United States. Drinkers have developed more sophisticated palettes, giving up keg stands and beer pong for the depth and flavors offered in these premium varieties– despite the sexy example of someone like Kim Kardashian, as seen in the above still from her show. And yet, according to a report from the lobbying group the Beer Institute, total beer consumption in the U.S. has fallen for the third straight year. Since 2008, total beer consumption has fallen by as much as 11% in some states.

What states had the largest number of beer drinkers? The answer may surprise you.That said, Americans still consume a massive amount of brew — with an estimated 6.3 billion gallons guzzled in 2011. Nationwide, 28.3 gallons of beer a year were consumed for every American of legal age. But why do some states experience more consumption than others?

Beer Institute Chief Economist Lester Jones says the numbers can be misleading because the report measures the total amount of beer sold in a state– not how much is actually consumed. State regulations also play a role, such as when and where beer can be purchased, and whether or not it’s taxed. For example, New Hampshire has the highest per capita alcohol consumption because “anyone who is driving through or lives on the border of New Hampshire will probably opt for the 5% or 6% savings, and just go into the state to buy their alcohol there,” Jones said. As a result, it is common for New Hampshire liquor stores to be visited by residents of Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine.

According to the website 24/7 Wall Street, there’s also a relationship between the amount of beer purchased in a state and the prevalence of drinking — both casual and heavy — within the state. “Based on a Centers for Disease Control survey for 2011, all 10 states had a larger-than-average proportion of residents who reported binge drinking,” the article states. “Even in states like New Hampshire, where outside purchasers account for a portion of total beer sales, 65.8% of those surveyed reported having at least one alcoholic beverage in the past 30 days, the second-highest percentage in the country.”

So who ranked highest? Here are the top 5:

5. Nevada
> Per capita consumption:  36.5 gallons
> Total consumption: 70,951,684 gallons (21st lowest)

4. South Dakota
> Per capita consumption: 38.0 gallons
> Total consumption: 22,032,413 gallons (6th lowest)

3. Montana
> Per capita consumption: 40.6 gallons
> Total consumption: 29,640,123 gallons (8th lowest)

2. North Dakota
> Per capita consumption: 42.2 gallons
> Total consumption: 20,711,472 gallons (5th lowest)

1.New Hampshire
> Per capita consumption: 43.0 gallons
> Total consumption: 41,994,894 gallons (13th lowest)

To check out all 10 states, plus a breakdown for why Jones suspects some states scored higher than others, click here.