BEER consumption has slumped to a 60-year-low as Aussies opt for quality over quantity when it comes to the nation's favourite drop.
The Herald Sun said today national consumption of the amber brew sank to 4.49 litres (9.5 pints) per person in the year to June 30, 2009, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
That's the lowest since the 1950s. Per-capita beer consumption has been steadily dropping off since its peak of 6.4 litres (13.5 pints) per year in 1979 - partly thanks to the introduction of tighter drink-driving laws.
CommSec chief economist Craig James said Aussies were cutting back on mainstream beers in favour of fancy imported and craft brews.
"Australians have switched from quantity to quality," he said.
"Over the past three years, apparent consumption of low-strength beers has slumped by 25 per cent, whereas consumption of mid-strength beer has been constant and consumption of full-strength beer has edged higher."
Wine had also encroached on beer's territory, he added.
"Wine hasn't yet overtaken beer, but the gap has certainly narrowed," Mr James said.
"In 2009, 63 million litres (133m pints) of alcohol was available in the form of wine, compared with just over 79 million litres (167m pints) of beer."
This was despite a plateau in wine consumption in recent years.
"Wine consumption consistently increased from the 1930s to the mid-2000s, but has since shown signs of flattening out," Mr James said.
James Tait, corporate affairs director at brewer Lion Nathan, said Aussies were tailoring the types of beer they drank to different occasions.
"Ten years ago, the average drinker drank about three brands of beer," he said.
"These days, the average drinker drinks about seven brands of beer on a regular basis.
"They might drink a premium beer if they're out on a date, or a traditional beer if they're out watching sport with their mates."