Just 20 years ago, it was America's most popular alcoholic beverage by far. Since then, per capita consumption of beer down 20 percent and despite population growth, annual domestic production has fallen down, too.
Gallup's new alcoholic preferences survey, summed up in the image above, finds that beer's lead over wine has slipped by 20 percentage points since the early 1990s. But the demographic breakdown is even more brutal. Young drinkers and nonwhite drinkers saw the steepest falls in beer preference. In other words, the fastest-growing segments of the country are also running the fastest away from brews.
One explanation has been that American drinkers are more health-conscious today because there are so many studies and media reports of studies that make it impossible to be less health-conscious. This has hurt high-sugar and empty-calorie drinks that face relentless press criticism. "You're seeing that the consumer is taking a healthier look and having more alternatives [than soda], such as tea, and coconut water," Thomas Mullarkey, an analyst from Morningstar, has told me. "But also, Americans have aged, and soft drinks are most popular among teenagers and twentysomethings."
Think of of cheap beer sales as a health indicator for blue-collar America, especially for men (they call him Joe Sixpack for a reason). Look at the chart at the top of the story again. Beer dips after the 2000/'1 recession and then begins to recover. Then beer preference falls again after the Great Recession, where the hardest hit industries (construction and manufacturing) were blue-collar-male industries. As the Wall Street Journal reported, light beer sales fell for three years after the recession and only bounced back in 2012 due to the resurgence of craft beer.
TV used to be a little less boozy and a lot more innocent. Liquor ads didn't air on U.S. television until 1996, according to WSJ, "when a local NBC station in Texas agreed to run a commercial for Crown Royal whiskey." It's only very recently that they've started running ads on broadcast networks. Since liquor marketing came out of the cabinet, liquor sales are up.