Beer drinkers in Utah spent $189 million quenching their thirst for brew last year, part of the $619 million boost to the state's economy claimed by the malt beverage industry.

According to a just-released national study by the Beer Institute in Washington, D.C., 4,700 Utahns earned $49 million working here in the industry last year.Beer consumption in Utah is already well behind the national average. The institute reported that last year, Utahns drank the equivalent of 12.7 gallons of beer for every man, woman and child in the state.

That compares to more than 24 gallons per capita nationwide. Nearly $45.6 billion was spent on beer nationwide in 1990. Utah's retail sales of $189 million represent just one-tenth of 1 percent of national sales.

The state's four breweries, 16 wholesalers and 3,500 retailers paid $19 million in state and local taxes. A total of $6 million in federal excise taxes on beer were paid by Utahns.

The study, done in collaboration with the University of Delaware, figured the beer industry's total contribution to the Utah economy amounted to $619 million in 1990.

That calculation takes into account purchases by breweries, wholesalers and retailers as well as the beer industry's payroll, taxes and sales and the economic impact of those expenses on other industries.

That's just a small portion of the more than $167.5 billion addition to the nation's economy from the malt beverage industry that is estimated by the study.

The Beer Institute is warning that the increase in the federal excise tax that went into effect this year will end up costing Americans money by putting a damper on sales.

The federal beer tax doubled, from $9 to $18 on a 31-gallon barrel of beer. The increase adds about 5 cents to the cost of a can of beer. Utah already has the ninth-highest state beer tax, 35 cents per barrel.

The increase in the federal tax was part of a package of new and increased taxes that also included so-called luxury taxes on high-priced cars, boats, jewelry and furs.

The amount of beer sold this year is expected to decline 3 percent nationwide according to the institute, because the tax increase is being passed along to consumers.

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(Chart)

Retail Beers Sales

States 1990 Retail Beer Sales Total Economic Impact

Arizona $695 million $1.3 billion

California $4.6 billion $15.9 billion

Colorado $602 million $ 4.9 billion

Idaho $200 million $444 million

Montana $189 million $625 million

Nevada $456 million $684 million

New Mexico $268 million $816 million

Oregon $541 million $1.5 billion

Utah $189 million $619 million

Washington $906 million $3.1 billion

(lowest sales)

Wyoming $99 million $271 million

(highest sales, total economic impact)

California - $4.6 billion

(lowest economic impact)

Alaska - $135 million

National Total $45.5 billion $167.5 billion

Source: Beer Institute