Slow economic recovery or not, Americans kept drinking beer in 2011 -– though much of the 2% sales growth came from high-end premium brews, according to industry lobbying group The Beer Institute.
Beer sales totaled more than $98 billion, with on-premise revenue from vendors such as bars, restaurants, nightclubs and stadiums increasing 3% to more than $55 billion. Off-premise sales at grocery, convenience and liquor stores grew less than 1% to $43 billion.
The booze is sold at about 547,000 establishments in all, according to the institute.
"Beer continues to be the preferred alcohol beverage of Americans," said Joe McClain, president of the institute.
Middle-income buyers remain beer's strongest consumer base. But those drinkers have been heavily hit by the recession and its aftermath, and with less disposable cash, they have picked up fewer six-packs of standard brands such as Budweiser.
Meanwhile, in a trend that’s being mirrored in both the wine and liquor industries, higher-income consumers less affected by the economy are spending their money on better-quality options.