Ever since humans first started brewing beer in Mesopotamia about 10,000 years ago, we’ve been obsessed with it. We create special little glasses to sample it, we set aside an entire month to celebrate it, and we even re-wrote the U.S. Constitution so we could drink it.
According to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 207.4 million barrels of beer were sold in the U.S. in 2017. If barrels are hard to picture, it is about 2.9 billion 24 packs. If that’s still too abstract to imagine, think of a single 24-pack and then multiply that by 2.9 billion! (JK JK JK). Stack up all those 24-packs and it's enough to reach the moon … four times.
And while America is awash in beer, that doesn't mean every state is a veritable Pilsner Paradise. Thanks to the legacy of prohibition, regional restrictions, and befuddling distribution maps, some states are downright bummers for beer enthusiasts.
To figure the Best State for Beer Lovers, we here at Groupon Coupons looked at reams of publicly available data and proprietary Groupon data. From there, we calculated three metrics: the average score of the 5 best-tasting beers made in that state (quality), the average cost of a 12oz. beer in each state (affordability), and the number of beer-related Groupons sold in that state per 1,000 people (enthusiasm).
Overall, the race was a real squeaker,but when we combine the results for Quality, Affordability, and Enthusiasm, the best state for beer lovers turns out to be the great state of California. Neck and neck with Cali at the finish line was Colorado, but with a Quality score of 5 to Colorado's less impressive 15, the Golden State just edged out the gold. Cheers!
But when you look at the whole country, it’s The Great Lakes that really steal the show. Five of the top 11 states share coastline with one of the lakes—Michigan (3), Illinois (4), Pennsylvania (7), Minnesota (8), and Ohio (11). Come to think of it, we’d be mildly disappointed if the states bordering the largest freshwater basin in the world didn’t use at least some of that water to make beer.
See a smaller, top-20 version of this chart here.
Our quality ranking is based on each state’s top 5-rated beer scores on BeerAdvocate.com.
Ever heard of the I-80 Suds Corridor? Probably not, because we just invented it. But with good reason: Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois all show up in the top 10. Moving west though, another triumvirate of states didn’t fare so well: South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho all rank in the bottom 5.
But which state makes the best beer? Massachusetts edges out Iowa for the top spot thanks to Tree House Brewing Company’s slate of well-reviewed offerings. Iowans can soothe the bruise to their pride by pouring one of their Kentucky Brunch Brand Stouts, the single highest rated American-made beer overall. Rounding out the top three states is a bit of a sleeper: Florida. While the Sunshine State’s most famous beverage is likely still OJ, impressive contributions from breweries like Cigar City Brewing and Angry Chair Brewing are making a strong case to put Florida on the beer map. And the worst beer? Sorry South Dakota, but you can probably blame it on the water.
The overall affordability ranking considered both the cost of a 12oz. Miller Lite in bars and the cost of a 24-pack of Miller Lite or Bud Light in stores (Total Wine and Walmart, specifically). The higher the ranking, the more expensive the brew.
If you seek a pleasant peninsula—and dirt-cheap beer—look about you, Michiganders. It’s not quite the official state motto, but it might as well be. That’s because, according to our research, Michigan is the premier destination for folks looking to spend less to drink more. And as if that weren’t enough to get frugal aficionados heading Michigan’s way, consider this: Michigan is one of only two states that will buy back empties for $0.10 a pop. It’s like they’re literally paying you to drink beer.
But there are plenty of other states where social beer-lovers can quaff for less. If you like to do your drinking in a bar, Colorado is king with the cheapest bar prices in the nation. Pennsylvania, home of the oldest brewery in the U.S. (shoutout to Yuengling!), has the largest discrepancy between bar price ranking (3) and store price ranking (50)—likely on account of Pennsylvania’s super-strict laws regulating retail alcohol sales.
Worst state for barflies? Predictably, a night out in New York will set you back quite a bit. The big bar bills are offset a little by New York’s relatively average in-store prices. It’s still expensive, but there are four states with beer prices that make the Empire State seem a little more reasonable: Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and—the most expensive state for beer in America—Alaska.
To determine the enthusiasm ranking, we took each state’s total population and the total number of beer-related Groupons sold there in 2018, and got the number of beer-related Groupons sold per 1,000 people.
And guess what? The genteel folks of Nevada purchase more beer-related Groupons (beer-tasting, brewery tours, etc.) than anyone else. What’s more, that good ol’ Nevadan beerthusiasm stands up in the face of less-than-kind quality (44th) and cost (41st) rankings. In that light, Nevadan’s passion for beer is downright admirable, considering they’re drinking some of the most expensive, lowest quality beer in the nation. It may not be great, and it may be a little pricey, but that’s never stopped Nevada before.
Outside data collected from the United States Census Bureau, www.beeradvocate.com, www.beermenus.com, and www.simplethriftyliving.com. For the complete data set, email Scott Schulfer at email@example.com.