SPRINGFIELD — Illinoisans guzzled nearly three fewer six packs of beer in 2011, per person, than they did just five years ago.
The Washington D.C.-based Beer Institute said the per capita consumption rate fell from about 56 six packs in 2007 to about 53 in 2011.
The decrease sent Illinois tumbling out of its long-held No. 5 spot in beer shipments. After California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Illinois now ranks sixth behind Pennsylvania.
The drop-off has left some scratching their heads.
“We’re all aware of it, but I don’t know if there is any one factor to explain it,” said Bill Olson, executive director of the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois.
Weather plays a key role in determining beer sales. If forecasts call for rain on a holiday like July 4, beer distributors feel the downturn, regardless if a drop of rain falls, Olson said.
Olson also said the push by hard liquor companies to promote their products on television has boosted sales of spirits, which cuts into beer sales.
“I think being on TV has helped them,” Olson said.
Olson said he doesn’t believe the 2011 numbers represent a trend, at least yet. “These things can sometimes be cyclical,” Olson said.
Paul Gagne, manager of Taylorville-based Gagne Distributing, agreed, saying factors like the economy and a harsher winter all play a role.
“It goes back and forth,” Gagne said.
Among surrounding states, Wisconsin residents downed 36.2 gallons of beer on a per capita basis in 2011, compared to 28.9 gallons in Illinois. Iowans drank 33.7 gallons per capita, while Missouri residents consumed 31.1 gallons, according to the Beer Institute.
Indiana and Kentucky residents and the nation as a whole drank less per capita than Illinoisans, the organization reported.
The No. 1 beer drinking state, based on per capita consumption, was New Hampshire, followed by North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and Nevada.
The state with the least amount? Utah, home to a large non-drinking Mormon population.
The downturn comes as Illinois is relying on beer sales to help finance a road, bridge and school construction program.
In 2009, the state raised the tax on beer to 23.1 cents per gallon. That means those who drink the yearly average of 319 cans pay the state $6.67 annually in taxes.
Combined with the federal tax of 58 cents per gallon, that comes to $23.42 in state and federal taxes for beer in 2011.