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Beer Is Better Than Wine for the American Worker

Workers gather in the brewhouse at Brooklyn Brewery on Oct. 23, 2012

Photograph by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Workers gather in the brewhouse at Brooklyn Brewery on Oct. 23, 2012

Anyone who’s spent much time in the beer aisle of their local supermarket, liquor store, or bodega has probably noticed that the number of U.S. beer makers has multiplied in recent years. A new Census Bureau report confirms it: There were 869 breweries in the U.S. in 2012, more than double the number in 2007. Wine drinkers have also enjoyed the fruits of an increase in producers, with the number of U.S. wineries jumping 34 percent over the same period.

Not all adult beverages are equal—at least not in the eyes of the American worker. On average, U.S. breweries paid higher salaries and benefits than wineries did in 2012.

Breweries also paid a higher percentage of their sales in taxes. Still, there’s plenty that the data doesn’t tell us. The government’s definition of a winery includes businesses that grow grapes and manufacture wine. That means the vino workforce probably counts a lot of low-paid agricultural workers. Breweries buy their grains from suppliers, so the people who harvest the raw materials aren’t captured on beer makers’ payrolls. Nor does the Census explain how mega-breweries such as Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) or Molson Coors Brewing (TAP) affect pay in the beer business.

Still, the data send a clear-enough prompt to tipplers who believe their consumer choices should not only taste great but also support the U.S. economy: Drink beer.

Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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