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5 Biggest Beer Drinking States in the U.S.

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) – Beer drinkers in the United States aren't buying as much as they used to, but their taste for beer hasn't changed as much as the numbers suggest.

Overall beer sales plummeted 1.9% last year and have dropped in four out of five years since the recession. That downturn reduced beer's share of the overall alcohol market from 55% in 2000 to just 49% by 2012. That preference for beer among drinkers younger than 29 has fallen especially hard. The percentage of that age group drinking beer has plummeted from 71% in the years 1992-94 to 41% from 2012-13, according to a 2013 survey by Gallup.

When Washington, D.C.-based beer industry group The Beer Institute industry group last checked in 1992, drinking-age U.S. residents consumed 28.2 gallons of beer per capita. That's nearly two 15.5-gallon keg apiece. It's up from the 20.8 gallons a year earlier.

Though Anheuser-Busch InBev and MolsonCoors and importers including Diageo have seen their sales slide in recent years, there have been some noteworthy changes in the beer industry during that time as well. For one, the Brewers Association craft beer industry group notes that the number of breweries in the U.S. has risen from roughly 1,700 at the height of the recession to 3,000 today. The Beer Institute notes that number of breweries licensed by the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau sits at 3,699.

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In the past year alone, craft beer sales have risen 17.2% by volume and 20% by dollars as Samuel Adams producer Boston Beer, Widmer Brothers parent company Craft Brew Alliance and others draw more drinkers to bars and bottle shops. Modelo and Corona importer Constellation Brands, meanwhile, has watched its Modelo Especial brand grow 64% in the U.S. since 2010 as brands including Bud Light, Budweiser and Miller Light lose sales and market share.

The U.S. is still buying beer, but it's spending on imports, small brewers' styles and big-brewer “craft” brands such as Blue Moon and Goose Island. With the help of the Brewers Association and Beer Institute, we take a look at the biggest beer states in the union and just what's driving them:

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