Wisconsin Grudge Match: Beer v. Cheese
Sure, beer is what made Wisconsin (or at least its biggest city) famous. But in nearly every objective category, our cheese industry overshadows brewing.
Beer: 10.2 million barrels (2016)
Cheese: 3.24 billion pounds (2016)
Production Rank Among States
Beer: No. 9 (2016)
Cheese: No. 1 (2016)
Total Per Capita Production
Beer: 54.7 gallons per resident (2016)
Cheese: 561 pounds per resident (2016)
Share of U.S. Total
Beer: 5.2% (2016)
Cheese: 26.6% (2016)
Bars vs. Dairy Farms
Beer: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are 2,782 drinking places in the state (2015), while the Tavern League of Wisconsin has more than 5,000 members.
Cheese: The state had 9,520 licensed dairy herds as of 2016, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
Number of Jobs
Beer: 35,044 people work directly in brewing, distributing, and selling beer with a payroll of just over $1 billion (2016)
Cheese: 78,900 in dairy farming and processing (and remember, about 90 percent of Wisconsin milk becomes cheese) (2012)
Direct Economic Impact
Beer: $4.1 billion (2016)
Cheese: $22.5 billion (entire dairy industry, 2012)
Indirect Economic Impact
Beer: $10.5 billion (2016)
Cheese: $43.4 billion (entire dairy industry, 2012)
Beer: While a tall, cold one makes many people think fondly of Wisconsin, beer has never been made an official symbol of the state. The polka, however, is the official state dance, and the old oom-pah-pah just isn’t the same unless you roll out the barrel.
Cheese: Bills naming cheese the official state snack and Lactococcus lactis (the bacterium that makes cheese) as the official state microbe both failed in the state Legislature in recent years. However, milk is the state beverage, and the cow is the state domestic animal.
Sources: Beer Institute (beerinstitute.org), National Beer Wholesalers Association, U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Brewers Association (BrewersAssociation.org), Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (EatWisconsinCheese.com), UW-Madison Department of Agriculture & Applied Economics, U.S. Census Bureau County Business Patterns, Wisconsin Tavern League.