Who drinks the most beer? New data says it's the Midwest

As someone who’s a bit obsessed with beer and probably spends too much money on the stuff, the weeks surrounding the Fourth of July represent a sweet slice of affirmation, because it's a time when America’s shopping bill looks like mine.

According to data recently released by the Beer Institute, sales of beer topped that of all other food and beverage categories measured by the Nielsen Company during the two weeks ending on July 7, 2012.

That means more than baby formula, more than hot dogs, more than those delicious little brownie bites that the kids eat up before you get one, America is busy buying beer for the Fourth of July – it’s America’s top beer selling holiday.

The Beer Institute also released an updated ranking of which states purchase the most and the least beer. The top five beer buying looks like this:

1.    North Dakota

2.    New Hampshire

3.    Montana

4.    South Dakota

5.    Wisconsin

All I can say is you were robbed No. 6 Nevada – keep trying. If everyone in your state drinks just a half of a beer more each year, you’ll knock those cheeseheads off the charts!

The list of the bottom five states – the ones that drink the least amount of beer per capita – make it seem unlikely that people will be doing keg stands in and around the Big Apple as the fireworks fly:

47. Maryland

48. New York

49. New Jersey

50. Connecticut

51. Utah

New stats indicate that there's a good chance this party is happening in North Dakota or New Hampshire.Today

I guess the East Coasters on the list are busy sipping on fruit-laden Pimm’s Cups or fancy Carrot Coladas instead of good old-fashioned American beer.

The least surprising outcome of the data collection is the state that’s on the bottom of the list (there’s 51 because Washington D.C. was counted as its own state). Utah’s cultural climate and convoluted beer selling laws help keep demand suppressed in The Beehive State, even if it’s home to Uinta, one of the best up-and-coming breweries in America.

STORY: The Best Craft Beer State: Does Quantity Equal Quality?

Overall, beer sales are on the rise across the nation, having grown 1.5 percent in 2012. While this seems minuscule, it’s a fair sight better than the dip in sales the industry suffered through in 2011, a year that saw a decline of 1.3 percent, driven by drooping sales of industrial light lagers like Budweiser and Coors.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for American brewers. While the big boys have been struggling in the past couple of years, America’s scrappy independent craft brewers are doing a bang-up business.

According to the Brewers Association, craft beer sales were up 11.2 percent by volume in 2011, and an even more impressive 15 percent by volume in 2012, and now account for 10.2 percent of overall beer sales revenue in America.

Whether you choose to celebrate the Fourth with a craft beer (I’ll be starting with a Firestone Walker Union Jack) or the cheapest beer you can stomach, know that you’re enjoying America’s most important foodstuff of the moment.

Happy birthday, America - I like your priorities!