Wine, Liquor Consumption Up Sharply Over Last Decade



By STEPHEN BUSEMEYER | The Hartford Courant

busemeyer@courant.com

We’re drinking more. Especially the hard stuff.

Beer is still the drink of choice in Connecticut. More than 53 million gallons of malt beverages were sold in 2013, according to the state Department of Revenue Services — the equivalent of about four beers a week for everyone of or near legal drinking age in the state, roughly 2,650,000 people.

But over the last decade, sales of liquor and wine has increased steadily.

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There was a 20.2 percent increase in the amount of wine sold in Connecticut, from 11.24 million gallons in 2004 to 13.5 million gallons in 2013 — about 2 1/2 glasses a week for everyone. Sparkling wine and fortified wine jumped by 41 percent, from about 380,000 gallons to 538,000 gallons.

Hard liquor sales also spiked: from 5.4 million gallons sold in 2004 to 6.6 million gallons in 2013 — now about 4 drinks a week, an increase of 21.6 percent, according to the DRS data.

Keg beer sales were also up, but not by as much: from 2.9 million gallons in 2004 to 3.1 million gallons in 2013, an increase of 7.8 percent.

On the other hand, sales of bottled and canned beer fell by 13 percent, from 57.7 million gallons in 2004 to 50.2 million gallons in 2013.

The data do not shed any light on the issue of Sunday sales of alcohol. The tax department does not track which day of the week the alcohol was sold. So any extrapolation from the data to whether Sunday sales help or hurt local merchants is pure speculation.

But the data do say something clear about our overall alcohol consumption.

For the most part, every ounce of liquor is about 80 proof, or 40 percent pure alcohol. Every ounce of wine is anywhere from 12 to 14 percent alcohol. And while the alcohol content of beer can vary wildly, most of the popular beers are in the 5 percent range. The data count all “malt beverages,” but for the most part, that’s what we call beer.

That means, broadly speaking, every gallon of liquor is about 51.2 ounces of pure alcohol, every gallon of wine is about 16.64 ounces of pure alcohol, and every gallon of malt liquor is about 6.4 ounces of pure alcohol.

With that information, it’s possible to calculate about how much pure alcohol we consume in a year, regardless of what’s in the glass. To simplify the calculations, though, it makes sense to focus on the big three – wine, beer and liquor.

If we assume that everyone of drinking age in Connecticut consumes about the same amount of alcohol in a year – which is incorrect, but since this is wild estimation, let’s go with it – that would mean each person is drinking the equivalent of about six more bottles of wine a year than they were in 2004.

Cheers.

SOURCE: Department of Revenue Services, U.S. Census Bureau