Maine’s drinking again like it’s 1970

Maine’s been drinking more lately.

Per capita alcohol consumption (ages 21 and up) has been on the rise since the late 1990s, returning near levels of the early 1970s, according to annual reports from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The reports are based on state data, when available, and industry shipment data in other cases (for Maine, a study of the disparity between industry and state sources showed little difference from 2001 to 2013).

The per capita consumption figures are represented in terms of pure ethanol, not in liquid volume consumed, over the course of a year.

Regionally, the latest survey found the Northeast had a 1.7 percent increase in per capita alcohol consumption from 2012 to 2013. Maine’s trend was in line with that rise, up 1.5 percent driven by increases in alcohol purchases in the form of beer and spirits.The latest data, covering up to 2013, shows that Maine has historically preferred beer.

Wine consumption was down in the past year, but it has grown its share of total alcohol sales in the long run.

The dominance of beer isn’t Maine’s claim alone. That’s generally the case in states across the country, where beer is the preferred way to ingest alcohol.

While the Maine data does reflect purchases made in the state, it may not perfectly represent consumption. And the same goes for other states in New England, with tax-free New Hampshire nearby (just look at its outsized per capita representation above).

That cross-border sales has persistently been a concern of policymakers in Maine. Researchers at the NIH mentioned a “New Hampshire effect” in its report. Per capita consumption, base don sales, have also been up in recent years, led by a steady rise in wine consumption.

While it’s possible some of those New Hampshire purchases are finding there way to neighboring states, sales in Maine have been up from 2010 to 2013. Whether that’s good or bad news, I’ll leave that to you.

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.