May 3 (Bloomberg) -- Beer drinking in Australia fell to the lowest level since the end of World War II as wealthy consumers opted for wine and others shifted to the hard stuff.
Beer consumption measured in pure alcohol content fell to 4.23 liters per person in the 12 months to June 30, 2011, the weakest reading since 1946, from 4.45 liters a person a year earlier, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said in Sydney today. Consumption of spirits rose to 1.32 liters from 1.28 liters, while wine imbibing totaled 3.74 liters, near the prior year’s record high.
“A more multicultural Australia and higher income and wealth levels goes a long way to explaining increased wine consumption since the 1970s,” said Savanth Sebastian, an economist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation’s largest lender. “Perhaps in the current climate, more people are looking for a good, stiff drink,” he said, referring to liquor consumption.
Australia’s beer-drinking reputation was burnished by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, the most successful leader of the ruling Labor Party, winning four elections in the 1980s and early ’90s before being ousted by his party. The Rhodes Scholar set a record for the fastest consumption of a yard -- more than a liter -- of beer while studying at the University of Oxford.
Beer drinking in Australia peaked in 1975, at 9.2 liters of pure alcohol per person, according to the statistics bureau.
The 82-year-old Hawke showed he still had what it takes at an international cricket match in Sydney in January. At the crowd’s urging, the former prime minister guzzled a cup filled with beer, only spilling a drop on his chin as fans cheered and nearby police smiled, according to a YouTube video of the incident.
One-in-four Australians were born overseas and a third of people in the country’s biggest city, Sydney, entered the country after birth, according to government figures. There are almost 23 million people in Australia and about 4.6 million in the country’s biggest city.
In a 2011 report, Australia ranked 20th internationally in per capita beer consumption, according to the World Health Organization.
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