America's Biggest Beer Drinkers

  1. Consumption by State
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    Consumption by State

    Many Americans may now be unwinding by uncorking a bottle of wine, but by and large the U.S. is still a beer-drinking nation. Gallon for gallon, per capita consumption of beer in the U.S. is about nine times that of wine and 14 times that of spirits, according to data from the Beer Institute, an industry lobbying organization. Some states have a particularly hardy appetite for brewed malt beverages, including a few with lax alcohol laws: In Nevada (the No. 5 biggest beer drinker), alcohol can be sold 24/7, and in Wisconsin (No. 6), even customers under age 21 can buy a drink at a bar in the company of a guardian of legal drinking age. Utah has the lowest per capita consumption rate, followed by Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. The average person of legal drinking age in the U.S. drank 20.7 gallons (the equivalent of about 221 12-oz. cans) of beer last year, down from 22.3 gallons (about 238 cans) in 1994, according to the Beer Institute. (Still, that's relatively tame. The Czech Republic is the No. 1 global beer consumer, where per capita consumption in 2010 was 151.2 liters, or 39.9 gallons, according to Euromonitor.) The U.S. beer industry may have slowed down in recent decades as Americans generally drank less alcohol but increased wine consumption, but for many still, there is no replacing a cold brewski.

    Click here to see which states drink the most beer per capita.
  2. No. 25 Biggest Beer Drinker: Alabama
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    No. 25 Biggest Beer Drinker: Alabama

    Gallons sold per capita: 21.9
    Population of legal drinking age: 3,431,106
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $110,412,136

    There are few Alabamians who don't enjoy a cold brew while watching the Crimson Tide or Auburn Tigers destroy competitors on the football field. Alabama sold nearly 22 gallons per person age 21 or over in 2010, according to data from the Beer Institute. That's not bad for a state with dozens of dry counties and that, according to Free The Hops | Alabamians For Specialty Beer, limits beers to containers no larger than 16 ounces, meaning no large bottles, 40-ouncers, or growlers.

    Source on all slides: Beer Institute. Data refer to 2010. Sales per capita only include people age 21 or over.
  3. No. 24 Biggest Beer Drinker: Colorado
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    No. 24 Biggest Beer Drinker: Colorado

    Gallons sold per capita: 22.0
    Population of legal drinking age: 3,595,067
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $8,939,095

    In 1873, Adolph Coors opened the Golden Brewery in Golden, Colo., starting a legacy of brewing in the state that eventually made Colorado one of the country's top beer producers. In addition to a Coors brewery in Golden and the 250-acre Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fort Collins, the state also has a large number of craft breweries, including New Belgium Brewing and Odell Brewing. There's a total of 124 brewers in Colorado, the third-most after California and Washington, according to the Beer Institute.
  4. No. 23 Biggest Beer Drinker: Arizona
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    No. 23 Biggest Beer Drinker: Arizona

    Gallons sold per capita: 22.0
    Population of legal drinking age: 4,478,620
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $23,216,651

    Despite a law that aims to limit consumption, there is a lot of beer drinking going on in Arizona—enough, in fact, to generate more than $23 million in state excise taxes last year, according to Beer Institute data. The state made it illegal for retailers to hold drinking contests or to provide a person with more than 32 ounces of beer at one time, according to the law.
  5. No. 22 Biggest Beer Drinker: Hawaii
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    No. 22 Biggest Beer Drinker: Hawaii

    Gallons sold per capita: 22.4
    Population of legal drinking age: 1,003,512
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $27,349,589

    Enjoying a beer by the beach appeals to locals and tourists alike. In addition to importing products, Hawaii is home to Kona Brewery, the 34th-largest brewer in the country based on sales volume, according to the Brewers Assn. Unfortunately, the state has a high rate of binge drinking, 17.9 percent compared with the national rate of 15.1 percent, according to survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  6. No. 21 Biggest Beer Drinker: Ohio
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    No. 21 Biggest Beer Drinker: Ohio

    Gallons sold per capita: 22.5
    Population of legal drinking age: 8,305,392
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $46,640,919

    Maybe it was all the excitement surrounding LeBron James before he left. Perhaps prolonged celebration back home after the Ohio State Buckeyes' Rose Bowl victory helped, too. Ohio retailers sold an average 22.5 gallons of beer to each person age 21 or older in 2010, giving tax collectors something to cheer about as well—beer sales generated more than $46.6 million in state excise taxes, according to the Beer Institute. MillerCoors has a 111-acre brewery in Trenton, which employs about 600 people and makes 11 million barrels of beer a year, according to the brewer, and Anheuser-Busch has a 258-acre brewery in Columbus. Ohio is also home to Great Lakes Brewing, the 31st-best-selling brewer in the country, according to the Brewers Assn.
  7. No. 20 Biggest Beer Drinker: Oregon
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    No. 20 Biggest Beer Drinker: Oregon

    Gallons sold per capita: 22.7
    Population of legal drinking age: 2,806,429
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $7,018,175

    Oregonians are serious about craft beer—the state is the second-largest producer of craft beer in the U.S., with 81 brewing companies operating 106 brewing facilities, according to the Oregon Brewers Guild. Each year in July, Portland hosts the Oregon Brewers Festival, which this year is expected to draw more than 70,000 visitors and 81 craft breweries from around the country.
  8. No. 19 Biggest Beer Drinker: West Virginia
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    No. 19 Biggest Beer Drinker: West Virginia

    Gallons sold per capita: 23.0
    Population of legal drinking age: 1,387,908
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $7,572,623

    West Virginians drink a lot, and legally it's all "non-intoxicating beer," the only kind that can be sold. It sounds stricter than it really is: Non-intoxicating beer is legally defined as 0.5 percent to 12 percent alcohol by volume, according to the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration. (For reference, Budweiser has about 5 percent ABV.) This odd name came about as a way for bars and restaurants to continue selling beer during Prohibition and has survived until today.
  9. No. 18 Biggest Beer Drinker: Missouri
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    No. 18 Biggest Beer Drinker: Missouri

    Gallons sold per capita: 23.1
    Population of legal drinking age: 4,300,988
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $8,284,915

    St. Louis is the headquarters location of Anheuser-Busch and the site of a 119-acre Anheuser-Busch brewery. Missouri is also home to Boulevard Brewing, a craft brewer in Kansas City. The state is known for having lax liquor laws: There are no state public intoxication or open container laws. Also, Missouri has no dry counties.
  10. No. 17 Biggest Beer Drinker: New Mexico
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    No. 17 Biggest Beer Drinker: New Mexico

    Gallons sold per capita: 23.7
    Population of legal drinking age: 1,449,403
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $18,687,592

    Unfortunately, alcohol and drug abuse are among New Mexico's worst health problems, according to the state Health Dept. A report from the department states death from alcohol-related disease is more severe in the American Indian and Hispanic populations, which 2010 Census data show represent 9.4 percent and 46.3 percent, respectively, of New Mexico's population.
  11. No. 16 Biggest Beer Drinker: Texas
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    No. 16 Biggest Beer Drinker: Texas

    Gallons sold per capita: 23.9
    Population of legal drinking age: 17,154,807
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $115,611,797

    Fort Worth's MillerCoors brewery was the first to produce Miller Lite, starting the revolution for low-calorie beer. The facility employs about 700 people and produces about 9 million barrels per year. Texas is also home to a 136-acre Anheuser-Busch brewery in Houston and craft makers such as Spoetzl Brewery, maker of Shiner Beers, in Shiner, Tex.
  12. No. 15 Biggest Beer Drinker: Maine
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    No. 15 Biggest Beer Drinker: Maine

    Gallons sold per capita: 24.2
    Population of legal drinking age: 999,994
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $11,116,970

    Every November, the Maine Brewers Festival is held to showcase the state's beer makers. The Beer Institute estimates Maine is home to 39 brewers, including Shipyard Brewing—the 28th-largest beer maker in the U.S., according to the Brewers Assn.—Allagash Brewing, Peak Organic, Atlantic Brewing, Bar Harbor Brewing, D.L. Geary Brewing, Federal Jack's, Gritty McDuff's Brewing, Kennebec River Brewery, Sea Dog Brewing, Sebago Brewing, and Sheepscot Valley Brewing.
  13. No. 14 Biggest Beer Drinker: Mississippi
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    No. 14 Biggest Beer Drinker: Mississippi

    Gallons sold per capita: 24.2
    Population of legal drinking age: 2,072,004
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $30,686,417

    Mississippians drink a surprising amount of beer for a place with strict alcohol laws. Beer with more than about 6.3 percent alcohol by volume is illegal. Of 82 counties in Mississippi, 36 counties are dry for beer and light wine sales (some cities in these counties have voted to allow beer), according to the state Revenue Dept. Alcoholic beverages cannot be sold within 400 feet of a school, church, kindergarten, children's day care, or funeral home, though the rules for beer vary by municipality or county.
  14. No. 13 Biggest Beer Drinker: South Carolina
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    No. 13 Biggest Beer Drinker: South Carolina

    Gallons sold per capita: 24.2
    Population of legal drinking age: 3,327,093
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $86,117,687

    South Carolina drinkers, who consume about 24.2 gallons of beer per year, have recently gained the option of drinking even stronger beer. In 2007, the state raised the alcohol content limit for beer to 17.5 percent by volume from 6.2 percent. Also, in 2010, a new law was passed allowing breweries to sell directly to consumers and offer tastings during tours of their facilities.
  15. No. 12 Biggest Beer Drinker: Wyoming
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    No. 12 Biggest Beer Drinker: Wyoming

    Gallons sold per capita: 24.4
    Population of legal drinking age: 403,736
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $261,564

    Underage drinking, binge drinking, drinking and driving, and alcohol dependence are major problems in Wyoming, reported the Casper Star-Tribune. The state's alcoholism rate is 9.37 percent (it is a higher 13.5 percent in Carbon and Albany counties), compared with the national average of 7.66 percent, according to the report.
  16. No. 11 Biggest Beer Drinker: Louisiana
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    No. 11 Biggest Beer Drinker: Louisiana

    Gallons sold per capita: 24.7
    Population of legal drinking age: 3,210,884
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $35,833,051

    Louisiana summers are hot—high temperatures average above 90 degrees and it gets even hotter in the northern part of the state—making a cold beverage seem all the more refreshing. In New Orleans, the center of Mardi Gras and other popular festivals year-round, drinkers are allowed to possess open alcoholic beverages in plastic containers in public, according to the New Orleans Police Department, making it easy to drink on the go.
  17. No. 10 Biggest Beer Drinker: Nebraska
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    No. 10 Biggest Beer Drinker: Nebraska

    Gallons sold per capita: 25.2
    Population of legal drinking age: 1,286,989
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $14,262,312

    A nascent craft beer market is budding in Nebraska; the state so far has about 15 brewers, according to the Beer Institute. The state has also hosted a few beer festivals in recent years, including the Great Nebraska Beer Fest, which began in 2009, and the Omaha Beer Fest, which just held its inaugural event in May.
  18. No. 9 Biggest Beer Drinker: Delaware
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    No. 9 Biggest Beer Drinker: Delaware

    Gallons sold per capita: 25.4
    Population of legal drinking age: 650,090
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $3,494,158

    The Delaware Tourism Office, seeing increased interest in local beer and wine, last year launched the Delaware Wine and Ale Trail, a collection of 13 locations in the state where wine and beer are made, including 10 brewing stops. Milton is home to Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, the 19th-largest brewer in the U.S., according to the Brewers Assn.
  19. No. 8 Biggest Beer Drinker: Iowa
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    No. 8 Biggest Beer Drinker: Iowa

    Gallons sold per capita: 25.4
    Population of legal drinking age: 2,178,618
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $14,702,788

    Iowans are already the eighth-biggest beer drinkers, and beer laws are loosening up. A law enacted last year allows grocers to sell beer with 8 percent alcohol by volume, reported kcrg.com. Previously, any beer with more than 5 percent alcohol could only be sold through the state Alcoholic Beverages Division. The law also increased the alcohol content limit for Iowa brewers to 12 percent from 5 percent, allowing local brewers to compete with out-of-state makers that had been selling high-alcohol beer in Iowa.
  20. No. 7 Biggest Beer Drinker: Vermont
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    No. 7 Biggest Beer Drinker: Vermont

    Gallons sold per capita: 26.2
    Population of legal drinking age: 465,053
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $4,341,374

    Vermont, with 25 brewers according to Beer Institute estimates, has one of the highest numbers of brewers per capita of any state. It is home to Long Trail Brewing, Otter Creek Brewing, Magic Hat, and Harpoon Brewery, among others. In 2008, grocers gained the right to sell beer with up to 16 percent alcohol by volume, which was previously only available in state liquor outlets.
  21. No. 6 Biggest Beer Drinker: Wisconsin
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    No. 6 Biggest Beer Drinker: Wisconsin

    Gallons sold per capita: 26.3
    Population of legal drinking age: 4,104,027
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $9,626,737

    Drinkers should give some credit to Wisconsin: In 1932, Senator John Blaine proposed a resolution in Congress to repeal Prohibition. The state was also home to Frederick Miller, founder of Miller Brewing, who started making beer in Milwaukee in 1855. Today, MillerCoors still has a brewery in Milwaukee, one of the world's largest with 800 employees and about 10 million barrels of annual production, and one in Chippewa Falls, which makes Leinenkugel's beers. Customers under age 21 in Wisconsin bars can be sold and allowed to drink alcoholic beverages, if they are with their parents, guardians, or spouses of legal drinking age, according to the state Revenue Dept.
  22. No. 5 Biggest Beer Drinker: Nevada
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    No. 5 Biggest Beer Drinker: Nevada

    Gallons sold per capita: 26.8
    Population of legal drinking age: 1,928,669
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $11,594,640

    It's no wonder the drinks are always flowing in Las Vegas: In Nevada, there are no time restrictions on alcohol sales, which means you can buy a beer 24/7, as long as you can find a licensed seller that is open. Also, public intoxication is legal. In addition to having the fifth-highest per capita beer consumption rate, Nevada also has the fifth-highest per capita wine and spirits consumption rates, show Beer Institute data.
  23. No. 4 Biggest Beer Drinker: South Dakota
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    No. 4 Biggest Beer Drinker: South Dakota

    Gallons sold per capita: 27.5
    Population of legal drinking age: 575,533
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $6,138,384

    Beer is the alcohol of choice in South Dakota. The state has the fourth-highest per capita beer consumption rate, at 27.5 gallons per person age 21 or over, yet it ranks 13th for per capita spirits consumption and 43rd for wine consumption. Retailers can sell brews with up to 14 percent alcohol by volume.
  24. No. 3 Biggest Beer Drinker: North Dakota
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    No. 3 Biggest Beer Drinker: North Dakota

    Gallons sold per capita: 29.8
    Population of legal drinking age: 488,172
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $3,025,333

    There are no dry counties in North Dakota, where local jurisdictions grant liquor licenses. Drinking-age North Dakotans consume an average 29.8 gallons of beer per year, though the rate for some is higher: The state has a high rate of binge drinkers, 32.6 percent compared with the national rate of 23.3 percent, according to a survey by the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  25. No. 2 Biggest Beer Drinker: Montana
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    No. 2 Biggest Beer Drinker: Montana

    Gallons sold per capita: 30.5
    Population of legal drinking age: 724,590
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $4,086,435

    Montana has 30 brewers, according to the Beer Institute—that's far fewer than states such as California, which has 318, but it's plenty per capita for a place with only 989,415 people. Montana brewers manufacture more than 75,000 barrels of beer each year, according to the Montana Brewers Assn. Makers include Big Sky, Kettle House, Bayern, and Bitter Root.
  26. No. 1 Biggest Beer Drinker: New Hampshire
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    No. 1 Biggest Beer Drinker: New Hampshire

    Gallons sold per capita: 32.7
    Population of legal drinking age: 972,077
    State excise taxes collected on malt beverages: $12,898,579

    New Hampshire's per capita beer sales exceeded all other states': about 32.7 gallons, or nearly 350 12-oz. cans, according to Beer Institute data. Part of this is due to a high consumption rate—New Hampshire had the highest rate of alcohol use in the past month, 63.1 percent, in a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a federal agency. Another factor boosting state sales is the lack of a sales tax, drawing some shoppers from surrounding states such as Massachusetts and Maine, according to Lester Jones, chief economist of the Beer Institute.

    (In the photograph above, Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Speedway on September 19.)