Drinking by Young People

Beer, Wine, Flavored Malt Beverages, and Distilled Spirits

The most popular alcoholic beverage among American youth has long been beer. This internet-based study examined the most frequently consumed brands of alcohol.

The investigators advertised on Craigslist in three cities in the U.S. to obtain a convenience sample of 240 respondents who were age 16 to 18. Identified were the brands consumed by each respondent within the previous 30-day period, including the frequency of consuming each alcohol brand. The total number of brands consumed by the sample ranged from one to 18, with the median being four brands.

The top five brands consumed were all beer brands, as were 11 of the top 15 brands. The remaining four brands in the top 15 included three brands of flavored malt beverages (sometimes called alcopops) and one of mixed drink.

Of the top 15 alcohol brands consumed during heavy drinking episodes were eight brands of beer, four of flavored malt beverages, two of wine, and one of mixed drink.

More specifically, beer was the most popular form of alcohol consumed (83.4%) and also the most popular form of alcohol consumed during heavy drinking occasions (39%). Second in popularity was wine, both for overall consumption (51.9%) and heavy drinking (25.7%). Falling in third place for overall consumption (32%) and heavy drinking (19.5%) was flavored malt beverage. Far below beer, wine and flavored malt beverages in popularity among the youth were mixed drinks; there were few responses for specific brands of distilled spirits.

Many people believe that drinking beer is less likely to cause intoxication than is drinking wine or spirits. However, standard drinks of beer, wine and distilled spirits each contain six-tenths of one ounce of alcohol.

A standard drink is:

Knowing about standard drinks and alcohol equivalence also helps us understand that there is no drink of moderation, only behaviors of moderation.


  • Siegel, M., et al. Development and pilot testing of an Internet-based survey instrument to measure the alcohol brand preferences of U.S. youth. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2011, 35(4), 765-772.

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