"Higher beer production and higher consumption go hand-in-hand."
State Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, in op-ed column
On April 28, Stargel wrote an op-ed column in the Tallahassee Democrat defending her position on SB 1714, which would have allowed sales of 64-ounce growlers but require microbreweries to sell through distributors if their sales reach a certain volume.
Her editorial pointed out the apparent dangers of allowing brewers to sell their product.
"In states where beer is unregulated, the per-capita production is significantly higher," she wrote. "Higher beer production and higher consumption go hand-in-hand. As a social conservative, this is why I believe we need to keep regulations on alcoholic beverages in place and not have unregulated beer widely available in the marketplace. Social issues greatly impact economic issues, and we must seek a balance on both."
We were curious whether higher beer production led to higher consumption.
We first turned to the Brewers Association, a trade group composed mostly of small brewers and associated workers, including wholesalers, to see whether Stargel's claim held water. Its economist, Bart Watson, pointed out 2012 data from the Beer Institute, a D.C.-based lobbying group representing brewers, wholesalers and retailers.
California, the highest-producing state by beer shipments, ranked a lowly 44th in per-capita consumption (as measured in gallons per resident older than 21). In an ironic flipping of the numbers, North Dakota ranked 44th in total shipments, but was the highest per-capita beer consumer. Florida ranked third in total shipments, but ranked 34th in per-capita consumption.
Watson said the evidence supporting a link between production and consumption is weak at best, since the correlations the Beer Institute data make for both craft beer and large-scale brewers are statistically small.
PolitiFact Florida asked Stargel's office to back up her information. Spokeswoman Rachel Barnes told us, "Sen. Stargel was using the rule of supply and demand regarding deregulated beer. We know that higher beer production means lower beer prices. Lower beer prices mean higher beer consumption."
The Beer Industry of Florida, a distributor lobbying group, cited a 1988 piece in the Journal of Public Health Policy called "Public Action and Awareness to Reduce Alcohol-Related Problems: A Plan of Action" by James Mosher and David Jernigan. The paper proposed alcoholism treatment plans based on a "new theoretical approach … supported by recent research, which has demonstrated a connection between alcohol availability (e.g. price, minimum drinking age, etc.), per-capita consumption and, in turn, alcohol-related problems." That definition of availability doesn't seem like the same thing as production, though.
We searched for more evidence and came up empty.
We rate Stargel's claim Mostly False.
Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com/Florida.