How Strong Is Your State's Beer?

Eno Sarris, October 02, 2014

Stone Brewing is looking for an East coast home, you may have heard. And it might not be in Ohio, because that state limits beer to 12% Alcohol By Volume. Stone already has at least ten beers that that are over 12%, right now. (Including last year's Rookie of the Year.)

So it's not an ideal fit. I'd venture it's a deal-breaker unless the state can change the laws quickly. 

But that did make me wonder. How much does Ohio's law affect the beer population as a whole coming out of Ohio?

There's a couple ways to look at this. If you first look at how people in Ohio are drinking, it doesn't seem like there's much of an effect. Here are the average ABVs by state, judged by the region in which the beer drinker found himself when he tipped his glass. Note that Ohio is currently drinking the fifth-strongest beers in America.

ABV State
7.146 CA
6.938 DE
6.886 KY
6.797 VA
6.784 OH
6.784 AZ
6.759 TX
6.749 MI
6.744 OR
6.734 OK
6.727 IL
6.709 NC
6.706 CO
6.689 MO
6.676 CT
6.672 KS
6.635 PA
6.631 AL
6.628 GA
6.622 IN
6.603 NJ
6.602 DC
6.594 NV
6.593 WA
6.562 ID
6.546 D.C.
6.529 NY
6.506 MD
6.459 SC
6.444 MN
6.432 ME
6.425 RI
6.419 WI
6.417 MA
6.394 VT
6.374 FL
6.335 NE
6.321 IA
6.316 MT
6.312 NH
6.307 SD
6.302 NM
6.201 AK
6.149 LA
6.135 WY
6.129 WV
6.124 HI
6.079 TN
6.006 ND
5.985 AR
5.748 UT

If we switch it up to the average ABV from the state on the beer label, you'd think we'd get a different result. You'd think. Except that Ohio still shows up in the top ten by ABV, despite the limit. 

ABV State
7.619 OK
7.560 DE
7.496 AK
7.373 CA
7.235 MI
7.164 GA
7.113 OR
7.057 DC
7.048 IL
7.043 OH
7.037 NH
7.004 IN
6.993 AL
6.990 CO
6.969 UT
6.959 MI
6.955 MD
6.944 KY
6.926 ME
6.901 OR
6.867 TX
6.857 NV
6.837 SC
6.832 VA
6.814 NE
6.799 WA
6.764 MI
6.742 WY
6.731 MA
6.729 HI
6.717 RI
6.717 NC
6.716 PA
6.713 FL
6.713 ID
6.699 NJ
6.680 MO
6.656 WI
6.641 NY
6.627 MN
6.590 IA
6.590 MT
6.585 CT
6.561 AZ
6.492 NM
6.485 KS
6.390 BC
6.372 VT
6.331 LA
6.156 TN
5.844 WI

It's tempting to say that these laws aren't a big deal. That, despite the popularity of the big alcohol beers by rating, most people drink beers with single-digit ABVs. 

But look at Tennessee down there at the bottom. In that state, a beer is called "high gravity" and is only legally sold in liquor stores once it crosses... 6.2% ABV. That's the sort of law that can really make a difference. Iowa and Utah have similar laws, but also interesting ways around it. That's how the average beer drunk in Utah is the weakest in America, and yet the state produces average-strength beers. 

Ohio's ceiling is almost twice as high as the high gravity laws in those states, and so it affects the landscape in Ohio less. Alabama's law -- limiting beers to under 13.9% ABV -- has also had little effect on the state's average ABV. None of the capped states really show up as outliers on this list. 

It is interesting to see that ABV caps seem to have less of an effect on the average ABV consumed in a state than laws aimed at distribution. Of course, all of that is fine and good until Stone wants to make a Wootstout in Ohio. 

Sorry for the site outage yesterday, just a little growing pains as we get bigger and more popular. Thanks to Matt Dennewitz for working hard to get us back up and running!