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DOVER, N.H. -- Legal-aged residents of the Granite State seem to like their beer. According to new data released by the Beer Institute, 43 gallons of beer were sold in New Hampshire in 2011 for every one person of legal drinking age. The nationwide average is 28.3 gallons per person.
Drilling deeper, the data from the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group shows that New Hampshire has had the highest per capita sales rate in the nation four out of the last five years, frequently beating out contenders North Dakota and Montana, as reported by Foster's Daily Democrat.
The statistics, however, do not necessarily mean that New Hampshire residents are the heaviest drinkers out of the 50 states. Some analysts, according to the news outlet, point to the state's relatively low tax on beer as an incentive for out-of-state residents to cross borders to stock up on their favorite brew.
Lester Jones, chief economist for the Beer Institute, said New Hampshire typically ranks in the top five states when the group compiles its annual per capita sales ranking. However, Jones said the per capita consumption rate in New Hampshire is likely inflated because of the effects of tourism and the state's tax structure.
"When you think about it, New Hampshire traditionally has had a very high tourist business over multiple seasons," said Bill Herlicka, founder of White Birch Brewing in Hooksett, N.H., which has been in business for three years. "We're bordered by Massachusetts, which is again a more populous state by far than us. Because of the tax differences between states, and this gets you into Maine and Vermont as well, it's cheaper over here."
"If you were to sort of draw concentric circles around New Hampshire, what you'd see is that most of the high volume sales tend to be in the border towns, where there's more people in those towns, like Portsmouth to Nashua. Throw in Keene and Lebanon, those are pretty good-sized population centers, and they also happen to border another state," he told the newspaper.
Jones added it's likely the per capita sales figures in rural states, such as Vermont and North Dakota, more accurately depict the amount of beer consumed per person than the data regarding New Hampshire.
According to Jones, the shift in demographics has changed beer sales across the country. The average age of the population is increasing, and in general, older Americans tend to have a stronger preference for wine and spirits, he said.
In addition, there has been a shift within the beer industry from mainstream lagers to specialty craft beers. Jones added that the recession dipped into alcohol sales. He said the downturn disproportionately affected people in construction and manufacturing -- blue collar jobs in which employees are more likely to buy beer after work than wine or spirits.
Industry analysts believe an explosion in the variety of beverages available at retail stores, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, has also impacted beer sales.
"Walk into any convenience store today and the choices are mind-boggling on what a person could choose to put into their stomach," Jones told the newspaper, "so that's another variable there."