America's shame: Wine catching up to beer as country's preferred booze

Beer’s still tops — by one slim point. Twenty years ago, it led wine by 20.

This isn’t America.

Young adult drinkers’ alcoholic beverage preferences have changed dramatically over the past two decades. In the early 1990s, 71% of adults under age 30 said they drank beer most often; now it is 41% among that age group. There has been a much smaller decline in the percentage of 30- to 49-year-olds who say they drink beer the most, from 48% to 43%, with essentially no change in older drinkers’ beer preference.

Younger adults’ preferences have shifted toward both liquor and wine, but more so toward liquor, over the past two decades. Those between the ages of 30 and 49 have moved exclusively toward liquor. Older Americans now increasingly say they drink wine most and are less likely to say they drink liquor most…

Since the early 1990s, both whites and nonwhites have become less likely to choose beer as their favorite alcoholic drink. However, nonwhites have shown a greater shift than whites, down 19 points and nine points, respectively. Both racial groups’ preferences for wine have increased, with smaller gains in both groups’ preferences for liquor.

Millennials, who are more left-wing than the rest of the electorate on most policy matters, evidently prefer the European approach for alcohol consumption too.

The stereotype that men are beer-drinkers and women wine-drinkers is also amply confirmed, by the way, although interestingly that’s less true for men these days than it was 20 years ago and more true for women. In the early 90s, men preferred beer to wine 64/15. Now it’s 53/20. Twenty years ago, women preferred wine to beer, 43/29. Today it’s 52/20. Also interestingly, both then and now, women have preferred hard liquor slightly more than men did. Everything … okay, ladies?

My hunch when I saw the data was that the average price of wine must have dropped over time. I can’t find hard data to back that up after Googling, though; on the contrary, this Slate piece from 2011 noted that super-cheap wine grew less popular with Americans between the mid-90s and mid-00s. I don’t think it’s cost that’s driving this. I think it’s probably health reasons. The public’s undeniably more aware of the consequences of obesity than it was 20 years ago, and it’s also more aware of the virtues of a low-carb diet. Wine typically will get you drunk with fewer calories, fewer carbs, and maybe some side health benefits. The more health-conscious America gets, presumably the more wine will gain on beer as its beverage of choice. And then, someday when Mike Bloomberg’s president, both of them will be banned and replaced with sugar-free fruit juice. The golden age is nigh, my friends.