SPRINGFIELD | Illinoisans guzzled nearly three fewer six packs of beer on a per person basis in 2011 than they did just five years ago, according to a new report.
The Washington D.C.-based Beer Institute said the per capita consumption rate fell from about 56 six packs in 2007 to about 53 six packs in 2011.
The decrease has sent Illinois tumbling out of its long-held No. 5 spot in the nation in beer shipments. After California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Illinois now ranks sixth behind an apparently more brew-thirsty Pennsylvania.
The drop-off in drinking has left some scratching their heads.
“We’re all aware of it, but I don’t know if there is any one factor to explain it,” said Bill Olson, executive director of the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois.
For example, weather plays a key role in determining beer sales. If forecasts call for rain on a big beer drinking holiday like July 4, beer distributors feel the downturn, regardless if a drop of rain falls, Olson said.
Olson also said the push by hard liquor companies to promote their products on television has boosted sales of spirits, which cuts into beer sales.
“I think being on TV has helped them,” Olson said.
But, Olson said he doesn’t believe the 2011 numbers represent a trend — at least yet.
“These things can sometimes be cyclical,” Olson said.
Paul Gagne, manager of Taylorville-based Gagne Distributing, agreed, saying factors like the down economy and a harsher winter all play a role.
“It goes back and forth,” Gagne said.
Among surrounding states, Wisconsin residents downed 36.2 gallons of beer on a per capita basis in 2011, compared to the 28.9 gallons in Illinois. Iowans drank 33.7 gallons on a per capita basis, while Missouri residents consumed 31.1 gallons, according to the Beer Institute.
Indiana and Kentucky residents — and the nation as a whole — drank less per capita than Illinoisans, the organization reported.
The No. 1 beer drinking state based on per capita consumption was New Hampshire, followed by North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and Nevada.
The state with the least amount of beer consumption? Utah, home to a large nondrinking Mormon population.
The downturn comes as Illinois is relying on beer sales to help finance a road, bridge and school construction program.