World Beer Consumption – Are the Stats Warped ?

World Beer Consumption – Are the Stats Warped ?

“A statistician is a professional who diligently collects facts and data and then carefully draws confusions about them.” Although the source is unknown, we laugh at the truth found in this little gem. I’ve often wondered how accurate the stats are on population, for instance. I don’t remember a line in the Census Survey that says, “It’s complicated.”

If my mother comes to stay every weekend, and son number-one has a girlfriend who cohabitates in on-again off-again fashion, but son number-two has a friend visit every weekend … and, a friend of the family drives up in his road-hogging RV, but stays for an extended period of time … or I launch into a rendezvous with a new lover that becomes long-term, how many are counted as living here? If my son’s friend loses his lease and settles-in at my home “until he can get back on his feet,” is he also living here? And how many of these people are actually counted in other population surveys?

The funniest statistics I have recently reviewed were those on “Countries with the Highest Wine Consumption per Capita.” Who scored the highest? Vatican City, with a total of 70.22 litres of wine per person. Skewed? You bet!

Technically, Vatican City is a “country.” It meets all eight accepted criteria that give it such a designation. Population was 826 in 2009, but many of these citizens live in embassies throughout the world. Citizenship is not governed by the rules used in most countries. According to Wikipedia, citizenship is “granted jus officii, namely on the grounds of appointment to work in a certain capacity in the service of the Holy See.”

In 2011, 5 million people visited the Vatican Museums, but many more may visit St. Peter’s Basilica, free of charge, than actually pay to visit the museums. Because wine is used in the Roman Catholic communion during Mass, much of that wine is consumed by transient tourists. When statisticians worked the numbers, was total consumption divided by the number of citizens or by the number of estimated tourists? How accurate are these numbers?

After analyzing this enormous twisting of the facts regarding wine, I took a hard look at the reported stats for “Countries with the Highest Beer Consumption per Capita.” The Czech Republic and Germany consistently report the highest beer consumption per capita. How real are these numbers? Might they also be influenced by tourism or are they a reflection of a country’s culture? Is there a true measure that can be used?

How does Oktoberfest in Munich affect the annual statistics for Germany? In a country with over 81 million people, per capita consumption is less likely to be skewed as dramatically as those measured in the wine assessment, but perhaps the stats should still be viewed with some degree of skepticism.

The annual celebration of Oktoberfest, or Wiesen, lasts for 16 to 18 days, with 6.5 million attendees. 15% are tourists from other countries. Oktoberfest began in 1810, in celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The festival featured horse races, music, dancing, food and drink in meadows that have since been named Theresienwiese, Theresa’s Meadow, prompting Oktoberfest’s nickname as Weis’n.

All beer served at Oktoberfest must be brewed within the city of Munich and must meet the standards established under Rheinheitsgebot. Beer is served in 1-litre beer steins, with 7,100,000 litres poured during this annual people’s celebration.

A litre is equal to 33.8 ounces, a hefty amount of beer, especially of one style. This female Beer Fox would have a hard time guzzling down this much beer in a shot, and could easily become one of the many attendees who turn into “drunken corpses,” a term used for those who pass-out from hot-and-heavy beer consumption. I can only suppose that this beer is dumped, but is counted as consumed.

Oktoberfest is not the only festival that draws beer drinkers to Germany. Other German fairs include the Cranger Kirmes in Herne, Northrhine-Westphalia, with 4.7 million visitors, Dusseldorf’s Rheinkirmes and Bremen’s Freimarkt, each attracting over 4 million visitors annually. The Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart hosts 3 million visitors each year and the Schützenfest Hannover, draws about 2 million.

And what about the Czech Republic? The culture of beer in the Czech Republic is far different than any in the world. It is not uncommon to see businessmen grabbing a cold one on their way to work in the morning, and it is common to drink beer with every meal. Men pack the pubs in the evening, discussing everything from politics to potatoes. Besides being available in restaurants and bars, beer is readily available at street kiosks or the zoo, in cafes and bookstores. This “liquid bread” is typically served in half-litre glasses, and is replenished without any request in most establishments, while a beer mat or coaster serves as the tab with little hatch-marks keeping track of each beer consumed.

The United States tells a different story. Since the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition, beer has re-established a foothold in the market of alcoholic beverages. Each state – including cities, townships, or parishes within these states, have the power to individually regulate alcohol, creating a culture that embraces beer with much less enthusiasm than in Germany or the Czech Republic. Despite that, the USA boasts a per capita beer consumption that establishes it in the #13 spot. With 1400 breweries, the U.S. has the greatest number of breweries in the world.

Beer is the 3rd most popular beverage in the world, behind water and tea. Stats say that beer makes up 85% of all alcoholic beverages consumed, but if beer is made of 90% water, are they counting water twice? Perhaps beer is more popular than the statistics show.

Here’s a little story by statistician Gary C. Ramseyer that makes a good point:

“A new PhD statistician had just taken a position with the Bureau of Standards. One of his first tasks was to familiarize himself with the volumes of measurement standards for the vast array of objects in the world. He was immediately curious about his own profession and looked up ‘statistician.’

“Among the list of physical characteristics, he came across a shocking figure: ‘The mean weight of all statisticians in the world is 3 POUNDS.’ He gasped in disbelief. He thought surely this was a typographical error and that the first two digits had been omitted. Then he squinted and noticed a small asterisk by this figure. He quickly directed his eyes to the bottom of the page. He sighed a breath of relief as the footnote boldly stated, ‘INCLUDES URN.’”


Get ready for Oktoberfest. No need to carry heavy lederhosen. Travel lightly:
Grey German Oktoberfest Alpine Hat

Do you like German Weissbier? Drink in style:
Erdinger Weissbrau Glass

You Should Also Read:
Competitive Homebrewing
Three Tier System of Alcohol Distribution - USA
25 Questions - Philly Beer Geek Fun

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