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Published July 04, 2013, 11:42 PM

More beer shipped to North Dakota in 2012 per capita than any other state

Minnesota further down list, ranking 29th
FARGO – When it comes to nationwide beer stats, North Dakota is again on the top shelf.

By: Erik Burgess, INFORUM

FARGO – When it comes to nationwide beer stats, North Dakota is again on the top shelf.

More beer was shipped per capita to the Roughrider State last year than to any other state in the nation.

That’s according to a analysis released Tuesday by the Beer Institute, a trade association in Washington, D.C., that represents brewers, importers and suppliers nationwide.

The study shows that 753,150 31-gallon barrels of malt beverage were shipped to North Dakota in 2012. With an estimated population of 509,226 people that were at least 21 years old last year, that’s 45.8 gallons, or 489 12-ounce cans, per legal beer-drinking adult here, most in the nation, the study says.

New Hampshire came in second on the list, with 43.9 gallons shipped per 21-year-old last year. Montana took third with 41 gallons; South Dakota was fourth with 38.9 gallons; and further down the list was Minnesota, ranking 29th, with 28.5 gallons.

The total amount of malt beverages shipped to North Dakota last year actually ranked 44th nationwide, but when figured per 21-year-old, it boosted the state to number one per capita.

And the bottles really start flying off the shelf on the Fourth of July, said liquor shop owners here. Many owners Wednesday said they couldn’t comment because they were simply too busy handling the rush.

“Well, it’s busy like Christmas,” said Randy Lee, assistant manager at Steve’s Package Store.

Jamie Coppin, manager at Bernie’s Wines and Liquors, estimates that about 50 percent of his sales come from beer.

“There’s not a whole lot to do out here besides drink beer, I guess,” he said, with a laugh.

Coppin said he was surprised that Wisconsin didn’t top the list. The Badger State ranked 12th.

This isn’t the first time North Dakota has bested the nation when it comes to alcohol-related activity.

The state also has the most bars per capita in the country, about one for every 1,620 North Dakotans, according to a Forum analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. There is also one liquor store per 1,937 residents, sixth most nationwide.

But what’s good for beer sellers might not be so great for the community as a whole, said Pamela Sageness, prevention administrator for the Department of Human Services.

A pair of 2010 studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that North Dakotans binge drink more often – and in greater quantities – than almost all Americans.

North Dakota has had high alcohol consumption levels for at least the past decade, Sageness said.

“They wouldn’t ship this much if there wasn’t the consumption,” Sageness said, referring to the Beer Institute data.

All of the drinking comes with a hangover. According to the state highway patrol, 50 percent of deaths on the road in North Dakota last year involved alcohol.

State lawmakers this year did pass stiffer drunken-driving penalties, including adding an aggravated DUI category with harsher penalties for first-time offenders with a BAC of 0.16 percent or higher.

But Sageness said the state’s culture – “where a six-pack is a serving” – also needs to be adjusted.

“It’s not something that can just be done from a legislative perspective,” Sageness said. “I certainly admire and respect the efforts that are being made. We have to look bigger than just policymakers. We have to look to community.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518