SEATTLE — It’s a great time for beer lovers in Seattle. For one, Friday marks the end of Seattle Beer Week, an eight-day celebration of our local craft beer culture.
And of course, we’re heading into Memorial Day weekend and the start of barbecue season — and what’s a barbecue without beer?
I thought I’d take the opportunity to delve into some data on beer consumption in the Seattle area to find out what folks might be drinking this weekend.
A little more than 1.5 million adults age 21 and older in the Seattle metro area consider themselves beer drinkers, according to survey data from market-research firm Nielsen. That’s just about half (49.7%) of our metro area’s total legal-age population.
And that placed Seattle only slightly higher than the national average for beer drinkers, which was 47%. Based on these numbers alone, you might not call Seattle a beer town in the way that Green Bay, Wis., is — the data shows nearly 60% of legal-age residents there are beer drinkers.
The Seattle metro area includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. For its most recent release, Nielsen surveyed more than 3,400 adults in the Seattle metro area from January, 2022 to February, 2023.
Even if the concentration of beer drinkers in Seattle isn’t particularly high, our area stands out in another way: Compared with nearly everywhere else in the country, folks here are more discerning when it comes to their brews. Or to put it another way, we’re one of the beer-snob capitals of the country.
Thirty-seven percent of beer drinkers in the Seattle metro said they’ve enjoyed a microbrew or craft beer at least once in the past 30 days. Among the 90 largest metro areas, Seattle ranked second only behind Portland, where 43% of beer drinkers had a microbrew or craft beer, which are typically made from higher quality ingredients and brewed by smaller, independent breweries.
Both Seattle and Portland had more than twice the national average for consumption of microbrews or craft beers, which was 18%.
Similarly, the data also showed Seattle beer drinkers were less likely to drink one of the major national beer brands than most American beer drinkers.
When asked which brand of beer they drink most often, about 44% of Seattle beer drinkers picked one of the Top 10 beers. Nationally, 63% of drinkers said the beer they most often drank was one of the Top 10 brands.
What are the Seattle area top beers?
They’re very similar to the list of top beers nationally, although the order is a little different.
Coors Light ranked No. 1 in Seattle, the most frequently consumed beer by nearly 8% of local beer drinkers. Nationally, Coors Light ranked third behind Bud Light and Corona Extra. In the Seattle area, Bud Light ranked second and Corona Extra was third.
But keep in mind this data was collected before the recent backlash against Bud Light for its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which has led to a boycott and a drop in sales.
In the Seattle area, beer is more popular among men than women, as it is nationally. About 59% of local adults 21 and older who said they were beer drinkers were men, compared with 41% of women.
Younger people are also more likely to drink beer than older people. Among Seattle-area adults under 35, 58% were beer drinkers, compared with 45% of those 50 and older.
Wine is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the Seattle area, with around 61% of adults age 21 and older saying they are wine drinkers. About 55% said they drink liquor. Beer ranks third at around 50%.
Hard cider has become a popular alternative to beer in the Pacific Northwest in recent years, perhaps in part because of the rise in people who have a sensitivity to gluten. Unlike beer, most ciders do not contain gluten.
Seattle and Portland are the top metros in the nation for hard cider drinkers. Seattle was No. 2, with 22% of adults 21 and older saying they drink hard cider, behind Portland, with 25%.